The price of a COVID-19 test in Delhi has been capped at Rs 2,400, the Home Ministry said in a tweet on Wednesday night, explaining that the move was aimed at "providing relief to the common man".
Delhi was earlier following the Rs 4,500 per test cap ordered by the ICMR (Indian Council for Medical Research, the government's nodal body in this health crisis).
"As per the directives of Home Minister Amit Shah in providing relief to the common man... it has been decided to fix the test rate at Rs 2,400," a tweet by the Home Ministry spokesperson said.
As per the directives of HM @AmitShah in providing relief to the common man. High level expert committee's report on #COVID19 testing rates received by @MoHFW_INDIA has been further sent to Delhi Govt for necessary action. It has been decided to fix the test rate at Rs 2,400.— Spokesperson, Ministry of Home Affairs (@PIBHomeAffairs) June 17, 2020
The Home Ministry also said that time taken to deliver results of these tests - to be conducted via the Rapid Antigen methodology cleared by the ICMR - would be decreased.
"Following the directives of Home Minister Amit Shah to increase testing and quick delivery of results in Delhi, from 18 June, tests will be done via new Rapid Antigen methodology approved by ICMR. Delhi would be given priority for these kits. 169 centers have been set up across Delhi," the ministry said.
Following the directives of HM @AmitShah to increase testing & quick delivery of results in Delhi.— Spokesperson, Ministry of Home Affairs (@PIBHomeAffairs) June 17, 2020
From 18 June, Tests will be done via new Rapid Antigen methodology approved by ICMR. Delhi would be given priority for these kits. 169 centers have also been set up across #Delhi.
Last week the Supreme Court tore into the Delhi government over the fall in testing rates, pointing out that Mumbai and Chennai (two cities with similarly high caseloads) were testing at more than thrice the national capital's rate.
"Why has your testing gone down from 7,000 to 5,000 a day when Chennai and Mumbai have increased their testing from 16,000 to 17,000?" the court asked, insisting that requests for tests could not be denied.
After the court's orders Union Home Minister Amit Shah and Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan met Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal to review the situation. On Sunday Mr Shah said number of tests in Delhi would be doubled within two days and tripled within six.
On Wednesday night the Home Ministry said the 16,618 samples had been collected on June 15 and 16, compared to the 4,000-4,500 per day till June 14.
The move to make coronavirus tests cheaper and, thereby more accessible, comes as part of a concerted push by the centre and Delhi government to increase testing to quickly identify and isolate COVID-19 cases and contain the worrying spike in infections.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi made that point today before his video conference with chief ministers from some of the states worst affected by the novel coronavirus.
Delhi has reported over 1,000 new cases daily for a few days now, with over 2,000 cases detected every day between June 12 and 14. There are a total of 44,688 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the city, with 1,837 deaths linked to the infectious virus.
Last week the Delhi government, which is scrambling to find beds for coronavirus patients, warned that there could be 5.5 lakh cases by the end of July - something it is not prepared to deal with. Hospitals will need at least 80,000 more beds, the government cautioned.
To help with the shortage of beds, the centre dispatched 500 specially-fitted railway coaches to Delhi's Anand Vihar Railway Station; these will act as COVID-19 treatment centres for people with mild symptoms, thereby freeing up hospital beds for more critical cases.
The top court has criticised the Delhi government on two occasions - last week it denounced its handling of the crisis as "horrendous, horrific and pathetic". Today it rebuked the AAP over cases against doctors, saying: "You can't threaten them for bringing out the truth".