- 50 crore poor, vulnerable citizens eligible for free tests
- Private labs, empanelled hospitals will conduct tests
- Tests to be done as per protocols of Indian Council for Medical Research
The centre will provide free coronavirus testing and treatment facilities to over 50 crore Ayushman Bharat health insurance scheme beneficiaries, the National Health Authority said in a statement on Saturday. The government body which runs the scheme said private labs and empanelled hospitals will be roped in for extending the free service to the masses.
"Testing and treatment of COVID-19 is already available for free in public facilities. Now, more than 50 crore citizens, eligible under the health assurance scheme will be able to avail free testing through private labs and treatment for COVID-19 in empanelled hospitals," it said in a statement.
The COVID-19 tests will be carried out as per protocols of the Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR) and by private labs approved or registered by it, the authority said.
"More than 50 crore poor and vulnerable citizens shall henceforth be eligible for free COVID-19 testing and treatment under Ayushman Bharat, PMJAY. Testing at private labs and treatment in designated hospitals now made free for Ayushman beneficiaries across India," Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan tweeted.
More than 50 crore poor & vulnerable citizens shall henceforth be eligible for free #COVID_19 testing & treatment under #AyushmanBharat#PMJAY— Dr Harsh Vardhan (@drharshvardhan) April 4, 2020
Testing at private labs & treatment in designated hospitals now made free for Ayushman beneficiaries across India@AyushmanNHA@ibhushanpic.twitter.com/ikXQhhYJJy
Health experts say social distancing and extensive testing are the two most potent weapons in the fight against the highly contagious virus, which has infected over a million people across the world. While the centre is strictly enforcing the nationwide lockdown to stem the spread of the virus, India has one of the lowest testing rates among the affected nations.
To bolster coronavirus testing numbers, the centre has recruited several private labs. However, there were concerns that poor people will not be able to afford private labs as the cost per test is steep.
"Active private sector involvement will be critical in case there is a surge in the number of COVID-19 patient that need care. States are in the process of enlisting private sector hospitals that can be converted to COVID-19 ONLY hospitals," the NHA added.
The number of coronavirus cases in India is rising gradually but not at a rapid pace like in Europe and the United States. As of Saturday evening, over 3,000 tested positive, with 75 deaths.
With inputs from PTI