With COVID-19 cases showing no signs of easing in India, the Supreme Court Wednesday ordered that novel coronavirus tests in approved government or private laboratories should be conducted free of cost. It also directed the Centre to immediately issue directions in this regard.
“Tests relating to COVID-19 whether in approved Government Laboratories or approved private Laboratories shall be free of cost”, a bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan and S Ravindra Bhat, which heard the matter via video conferencing, said.
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The apex court also said tests must be carried out in NABL accredited la.bs or any agencies approved by World Health Organisation (WHO) or Indian Centre for Medical Research (ICMR).
The court also issued directions on a PIL filed by advocate Shashank Deo Sudhi seeking a direction to the Centre and authorities to provide free of cost testing facility for COVID-19 to all citizens in the country.
“We find prima facie substance in the submission of petitioner that at this time of national calamity permitting private labs to charge Rs 4,500 for screening and confirmation test of COVID-19 may not be within means of a large part of population of this country and no person be deprived to undergo the COVID-19 test due to non-payment of capped amount of Rs 4,500,” the bench said in its order.
Noting the Centre’s submission that government laboratories are conducting the COVID-19 tests free of cost, the court stated that the private hospitals including laboratories have an important role to play in containing the scale of pandemic by extending philanthropic services in the hour of national crisis.
“We thus are satisfied that the petitioner has made out a case for issuing a direction to the respondents to issue necessary direction to accredited private Labs to conduct free of cost COVID-19 test,” the bench said.
The total number of cases n India rose to 5,274, including 149 deaths, the Union Health Ministry said in its latest briefing.
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