By Ashok Ramsarup :: India’s leading doctors and research organization – AIDS Society of India (ASI), has lauded the state governments of Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh for lowering COVID-19 test costs in the world’s largest democracy. This follows recommendations made by ASI as a result of exposure to private laboratories charging exorbitant prices for the tests.
ASI President Dr. Ishwar Gilada, who is a Governing Council Member of International AIDS Society, has confirmed that the Andhra Pradesh government decided to reduce the all-inclusive cost of Covid-19 PCR to 2400 rupees/-per test for samples sent by the national government and 2800 rupees/- for privately approaching individuals. While the Maharashtra government has fixed it for 2200 rupees/- per test for samples picked up from collection sites and 2800 rupees/- for samples collected from patient’s homes. These charges include sample collection, transportation, processing, reporting, and use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
Dr. Gilada said: “These costs are almost 50% of those (4500 rupees/- and 5200 rupees/-) private labs charged during the past two months. Telangana and Tamil Nadu states had fixed the price of 2500 rupees/- per test for their governments.
“India, with a huge population, the South Asian Country was fortunate in a fortunate position as it had an advantage of learning from the successes and failures of several countries and had two months’ lead time to firm-up preparedness.
“It can rank high in many infections or diseases and Covid-19 cannot be an exception. India climbed the Covid-19 graph from 25th rank on March 25 to 4th on 11 June. With a stiff rise in daily detection to 12000 Covid-19 infections on average 135000 samples tested daily (8%). India will top globally if the testing is fortified commensurate to countries with high numbers,” Dr. Gilada stated.
Dr. Gilada sounded a warning despite the World Health Organisation directive of March 16, “we have a simple message to all countries ‘test, test, test’ as India is low in testing due to policies set out by the government.”
He commented that public and private hospitals should withhold payments to Private labs till they adjust the excess amount charged, on the current cost of PCR and the government should ensure refund was also given to all clients, as private labs have their full details including Aadhar cards.
Meanwhile, South African Health Minister Zweli Mkhize has confirmed that Covid-19 cases increased by 3 811 to 65 736 over the past 24 hours.
Ashok Ramsarup is award-winning senior journalist of South Africa