Mumbai, May 27:
The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has advised state governments and UT administrations to negotiate with private laboratories and fix up mutually agreeable prices for samples being sent by the government and also for private individuals desirous of testing by these labs.
“Testing supplies are stabilising and due to the availability of a variety of testing materials and kits, including indigenous ones, the prices are becoming competitive and are undergoing reduction. Considering these developments and the evolving prices of the testing kits, the earlier suggested upper ceiling of Rs 4,500 may not be applicable now, ICMR Director-General Dr Balram Bhargava, wrote in a letter addressed to states.
“At the beginning of COVID-19 pandemic, there was a paucity of testing kits as India was heavily reliant on imported products for the detection of the novel coronavirus. Considering the cost of imported kits, the ICMR had suggested Rs 4,500 as the upper limit of a single test,” Bhargava wrote. In a letter dated 17 March 2020, the ICMR had suggested Rs 4,500 price cap for private labs testing the novel coronavirus.
However private laboratories claim that Rs 4,500 price cap for COVID -19 test is one of the reasons behind low testing. According to an analysis, on 16 April, private labs did a little over 15 percent of the total 28,340 tests done that day. And on 23 May, that figure was 19 percent of the total 1,10,397 tests done.
According to ICMR, unlike March, today there’s ample of alternative testing kits and supplies which can be used. Hence, the price should be revised accordingly. In the meanwhile centre is studying whether two lakh tests could be conducted per day.
In January 2020, India had only one laboratory testing for COVID-19, at the ICMR’ National Institute of Virology, Pune. Today there are 555 laboratories across the country, performing molecular tests for diagnosis of COVID-19 -an unparalleled achievement in the history of the Indian health system. The remarkable story of how India became fully self-reliant in its testing capabilities, despite starting from scratch just a few months ago, is one about the steely resolve of multiple agencies, working together round-the-clock to save lives, ICMR’s scientists said.