Will Maharashtra Covid-19 testing prices in private labs go down soon?

Civic officials say prices could reduce to Rs. 2,000 – Rs. 2,300


On May 25, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) issued a statement saying that the price cap set for Covid-19 RT-PCR tests at Rs. 4,500 would no longer be in force. This was decided as indigenous testing capacity had improved and the ICMR instead asked the states to negotiate with private labs and come up with lower prices for tests.

However, almost 10 days later, the Maharashtra government has still not come up with a plan and the tests remain exorbitant, reported Mumbai Mirror. Now medical experts and the Opposition are calling on the government and the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) to invite tenders from testing companies saying that competitive bidding would bring down the rates to around Rs. 2,000. BJP legislator Ameet Satam said that the BMC should invite tenders from private labs. He told Mumbai Mirror, “The rates will come down to around Rs. 2,000 per test if there is competitive bidding. States like Karnataka have reduced the price but the rates remain high in Maharashtra.”

In Karnataka, the cost of testing in private labs has been capped at Rs. 2,250. However, a report by Deccan Herald reveals that this price is only for samples sent by the government. Walk-in patients still have to pay Rs. 4,500 for the test.

The Indian Express reported that the Maharashtra government had set up a four-member panel a week after the ICMR’s statement. The panel is headed by Dr Sudhakar Shinde, the chief executive officer of State Health Assurance Society and comprises Ajay Chandanwale, the Deputy Director of Medical Education and Research, Professor Amita Joshi of Grant Medical College and Dr. Sadhana Tayade, Director of Health Services. The panel has eight days to conduct negotiations with private labs and report back to the government.

Emerging reports say that if the BMC is successful in the negotiations, Mumbaikars will have to pay less than half of what the tests cost now. As senior civic official told The Times of India, “We are in talks with private laboratories and should be able to reach an agreement soon,” adding that ideally a test should be conducted for a sum between Rs. 2,000 to Rs. 2,300.

Currently, there are 212 private labs in Maharashtra. While walk-in tests cost Rs. 4,500, private labs charge the BMC Rs. 3,500 per test – in cases where a BMC doctor prescribes a patient to undergo a Covid-19 test.

Covid-19 testing

Going against its previous orders, the BMC announced that it would now test all high-risk contacts of Covid-19 positive patients, irrespective of symptoms, within 5 – 10 days of being in quarantine. Additional Municipal Commissioner Suresh Kakani told The Times of India, “Previously, high-risk contacts were not tested if they did not develop symptoms. We are changing that now and going for aggressive testing of contacts. We are focusing on high-risk contacts who are under home quarantine. We relaxed norms. They will not need a doctor’s prescription to get tested. They can provide a self-declaration letter to labs and get the test done.”

On June 4, former CM Devendra Fadnavis had written a letter to current CM Uddhav Thackeray stating that while cases in the state continued to rise exponentially, testing had reduced to 27 percent by May 31, 2020 from 56 percent on May 1st, 2020 and 40.5 percent on May 15, 2020.



He alleged, “Mumbai has a capacity of testing 10,000 samples per day but only 3,500 to 4,000 tests are being tested every day,” adding that it was imperative to conduct these tests twice given the high rate of transmission.

He also accused the Maharashtra government of fudging the numbers of Covid-19 positive patients in the city, adding that there were reports of the words “Covid-19” and “suspected Covid-19” being deleted from many of the deceased’s death certificates.

According to the BMC, more than 2.08 lakh Covid-19 tests had been conducted in Mumbai till June 2 and the doubling rate had gone up to 19 days. The total number of positive cases in Maharashtra crossed 77,000 with 2,933 new cases being reported on Thursday. According to official data, as of June 4, the state had tested 511,136 people for the infection and conducted 4,184 tests per million. Data also shows that with the test positivity rates (TPR) going up in the state, more than 10 percent, it is indicative that the state needs to ramp up testing.



The Central government has also asked the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in Delhi to increase testing along with conducting aggressive surveillance, contact tracing and ensuring stringent containment in hotspots after the Delhi pool narrowed the testing pool by changing testing criteria, reported the Mumbai Mirror.

As per official data only 230,145 tests had been conducted in Delhi till June 3, though 11,615 tests had been conducted per million. In the past week, the number of new infections grew by an average of 6 percent every day. Currently, there are over 12,000 active Covid-19 cases in Delhi with total cases at 23,645. The revised testing guidelines say that “All symptomatic (ILI symptoms) individuals with history of international travel in the last 14 days; all symptomatic contacts of laboratory confirmed cases; all symptomatic healthcare workers or frontline workers involved in containment and mitigation of COVID 19; all patients of Severe Acute Respiratory Infection (SARI) are to be tested.”

Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said that the situation was worrisome looking at the TPR of 27 – 30 percent per 100 tests last week. He also said that the stigma associated with the infection led people to not report symptoms, making it one of the biggest reasons for the spike in infections. He said it was important to keep an eye on slums and other resettlement colonies as there was a high TPR reported from there. He added that 617 health care workers had been affected by the workers and the rising numbers indicated an urgent need to ramp up testing, apart from following mechanisms that were in place.





ICMR removes Covid-19 price cap, asks states to negotiate with private labs to lower price



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