Private labs halting tests ‘not acceptable’: HCUpdated: Jul 02, 2020 23:48 IST
The Delhi High Court on Thursday stated that private labs halting rapid antigen testing was “not acceptable... at such a critical juncture when the number of Covid-19 cases was shooting up phenomenally, on a day by day basis”. The court was responding to the Delhi government’s statement that private labs had stopped collecting samples for rapid antigen testing.
Satyakam, the additional standing counsel (ASC) for the Delhi government told a bench comprising justices Hima Kohli and Subramonium Prasad that the Delhi government had writtento all private labs individually seeking clarification as to whether they were continuing with the collection of samples for testing after it found that the number of tests had reduced.
He said that most laboratories had denied halting rapid antigen testing and added that they had several grievances against the Delhi government, that had largely been resolved by the expert committee constituted by the Lieutenant Governor, Delhi.
The court then said if any of the private labs had stopped sending phlebotomists to collect samples for testing for any reason, they must immediately respond to the Delhi government.
The bench also said that the private labs should convey to the Delhi government if the expenses incurred by them are not covered by the rate fixed for the test by the Delhi government (₹2,400).
ASC Satyakam told the court that a total of 68,041 tests have been conducted via the rapid antigen method from June 18 to June 23 at an average of about 11,350 per day. He said that the initial target of 20,000 per district daily was “quite ambitious” considering that the RT-PCR tests were also being conducted at the sample collection facility simultaneously.
He told the court that 41,155 samples were collected within this period (Jun 18-23) through the RT-PCR method and hence a total of 1,09,196 samples had been collected in six days. He submitted that sero-surveillance had been started in Delhi on June 27 with a revised target of 21,793 rapid random samples to be collected across the state.
He clarified that the sero-surveillance data will be collected up to July 5 and the results will be made public within one week thereafter.
“…about 30 government hospitals have been provided user credentials in the past 24 hours to undertake the rapid antigen test, of which 20 government hospitals have started the process,” he said while proposing that the rapid antigen test be conducted for free at all government dispensaries.
The court was hearing a plea by Sanjeev Sharma, through his counsel Rakesh Malhotra, who contended that there have been several instances wherein non-Covid patients needing surgery or other procedures were asked to undergo Covid-19 testing before that, but the hospital concerned did not do so stating they did not have the government’s permission.
ASC Satyakam responded that a June 23 circular by ICMR stated that any private lab or hospital would have to approach the ICMR for obtaining authorisation to administer the rapid antigen test.
The court asked ICMR to file a status report while also clarifying its stand on the grievance by the Delhi government that some tests undertaken by the private laboratories were not specific to Delhi but were from satellite cities and therefore, there was no clarity about the actual number of tests that were undertaken for residents of Delhi daily, for analysis.
The court also asked the Delhi government to file a status report indicating the number of rapid antigen tests conducted from June 27 to July 5. The report has to be filed on or before July 13. The matter will be heard on July 14.