The Supreme Court today took note of the differences in COVID-19 testing charges in various states and asked the centre to fix an upper limit for these tests.
A bench comprising Justices Ashok Bhushan, S K Kaul and M R Shah, which would pass the order later, observed during the hearing that there should be uniformity in COVID-19 testing charge in all states.
"There should be uniformity in COVID-19 test fee. In some states it is Rs 2,200 and in some its Rs 4,500," the court told the government.
The bench indicated, however, that the court will not venture into the fixation of the charges which will be taken care of by the centre.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the centre, told the court that some states have been negotiating with various stakeholders to ensure that COVID testing charges are reduced. "We should leave to states. Some states may be discussing even lower rates," he said.
The bench, however, turned down his request and said: "You fix upper limit. States will do rest".
Last month, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), the government's nodal body in this health crisis, had lifted the price cap of Rs 4,500 per test after the prices of testing kits had dropped. The apex medical research body had also asked state and UT administrations to "fix up mutually agreeable prices" to test samples with private labs.
While many states including Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Telangana and Delhi have brought down the rates for COVID-19 test following the letter, other states are yet to revise the price cap.
Amid rise in the number of coronavirus infections in Delhi, the Union Home Ministry on Wednesday revised the price cap on testing for COVID-19 to Rs 2,400. The new price cap for the tests -- which till now was Rs 4,500 -- was announced following directives by Home Minister Amit Shah to "provide relief to the common man".
In neighbouring Uttar Pradesh, the Yogi Adityanath government has fixed the price of COVID-19 testing by the RT-PCR method not more than Rs 2,500.
Maharashtra -- the worst hit state with 1,20,504 cases -- has also capped the price for the COVID-19 tests by private laboratories at Rs 2,200 from the existing maximum price of Rs 4,500.
The RTPCR test for COVID-19 has been capped at Rs 2,200 in Telangana. Tests will only be conducted on those with symptoms of influenza-like illnesses and severe acute respiratory illness (SARI), state Health Minister Eatala Rajender said.
India has reported 13,586 coronavirus cases in the last 24 hours in the biggest one-day spike. Government data shows the highly infectious disease has claimed 336 lives in the last 24 hours. India has so far reported 3,80,532 coronavirus cases, of which 2,04,711 have recovered; the recovery rate is 53.79 per cent. A total of 12,573 have died till now. The samples of 62,49,668 people have been tested across the country till Thursday. At least 1,65,412 were tested on Wednesday and 7.78 per cent of them were found positive.