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[Breaking] Plea Seeks Modification Of SC Directions For Free COVID19 Testing, Warns Abysmal Drop In Testing If Pvt Entities Not Allowed To Charge

Sanya Talwar
11 April 2020 8:51 AM GMT
[Breaking] Plea Seeks Modification Of SC Directions For Free COVID19 Testing, Warns Abysmal Drop In Testing If Pvt  Entities Not Allowed To Charge
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Seeking modification of directions passed by the Supreme Court for conducting free testing of COVID19 by Private laboratories & hospitals, a doctor has filed an intervention application. .The applicant, while warning that forcing private entitities shall create a sharp dip in an already below par testing rate for covid, has prayed that a separate EWS quota may be formulated for those who...

Seeking modification of directions passed by the Supreme Court for conducting free testing of COVID19 by Private laboratories & hospitals, a doctor has filed an intervention application. .

The applicant, while warning that forcing private entitities shall create a sharp dip in an already below par testing rate for covid, has prayed that a separate EWS quota may be formulated for those who do not have the means to pay for it.

The application has been mentioned before the Registrar for urgent listing.

The petitioner-intervenor, Dr. Kaushal Kant, a senior orthopedic surgeon, states in the application as follows :

"......directions passed by this Hon'ble Court on 08.04.2020in the present matter whereby it was directed not only that all COVID-19 testing across the country shall be conducted for free but also that "the question as to whether the private Laboratories carrying free of cost COVID19 tests are entitled for any reimbursement of expenses incurred shall be considered later on." The Applicant submits that if the Government does not provide immediate reimbursement to the private Laboratories, there is a real risk that the Laboratories may stop testing for COVID-19, thus posing a direct and inevitable risk to the health of persons across India through unknown transmission and contraction of the disease." - the intervening doctor contends.

In light of the above, the petitioner has prayed for a modification to the effect that private entities be allowed to carry out COVID19 testing as per rates stipulated in the ICMR advisory dates March 17, 2020, but allow the tests to be free for the EWS categories with immediate reimbursement by the Government.

Warning that the pandemic numbers are gradually increasing in India and that they are likely to see a severe spike in the coming week, the applicant has further prayed for an overhaul in the countrywide testing capacities.The applicant has also brought out the glaring fallacies in COVID-19 testing across India and has drawn international comparisons per capita in order to substantiate his prayer. 

"The message that has been sent out by the WHO Chief as early as the middle of March is to "test, test, test". He further said "All countries should be able to test all suspected cases, they cannot fight this pandemic blindfolded...... With the Indian population of over 1.3 billion, the per capita levels of testing are againextremely low at this very critical time." 

 Dr. Kant has also sought for further directions from the top court for installation of labs in local municipal and panchayat areas.

"In addition, it is necessary that all Governments start installing pathogen labs in local municipal and panchayat areas so that free testing by the Government can be increased to manage the capacity" - the application states.

On April 8, 2020, the Supreme Court directed that COVID-19 tests should be done free of cost in both government laboratories and in approved private laboratories.

The Government of India had been directed to issue necessary directions in that regard.

A bench comprising Justices Ashok Bhushan and S Ravindra Bhat passed the following directions :

(i) The tests relating to COVID-19 whether in approved Government Laboratories or approved private Laboratories shall be free of cost. The respondents shall issue necessary direction in this regard immediately.The interim order was passed by the bench in a Public Interest Litigation filed by Shashank Deo Sudhi, who challenged the Government decision to fix the cost of the COVID-19 testing in private labs as Rs 4500;

(ii) Tests relating to COVID-19 must be carried out in NABL accredited Labs or any agencies approved by WHO or ICMR.

The interim order was passed by the bench in a Public Interest Litigation filed by Shashank Deo Sudhi, who challenged the Government decision to fix the cost of the COVID-19 testing in private labs as Rs 4500. It had also added that the issue whether private laboratories are entitled to reimbursement from government for the expenses incurred for COVID-19 tests will be considered later.

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