The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation on Tuesday halted the home testing facility for Covid-19, due to “panic use” and private laboratories allegedly stacking up samples, The Times of India reported. Residents of Mumbai will now have to visit clinics or private laboratories to get themselves tested.

Additional Municipal Commissioner Suresh Kakani said the home testing facility has been stopped, but added that the BMC can arrange for it if somebody needs it urgently. “In several cases, it was noticed that people were calling for home tests out of sheer panic, even though they were not candidates for these,” Kakani said. “Labs, too, went on collecting samples and, in many cases, beyond their capacity, which delayed reports for everyone.”

Kakani said a delay in procuring reports from laboratories can have a cascading effect on the entire chain from contact tracing to quarantining.

The civic body has issued notices to two laboratories – Metropolis and Thyrocare – for bunching up of samples and, in other cases, lapses in reporting. Kakani said if their response is satisfactory, the laboratories can resume testing.

The BMC said that according to the new plan, any asymptomatic person, high-risk patients on dialysis or chemotherapy, and women who are over 36 weeks pregnant can call the civic body’s helpline – 1916 – and get directed to a fever clinic, the Hindustan Times reported. “If the doctor at a fever clinic thinks the individual requires testing, the medical staff will collect the samples and send them to our laboratories for testing,” Kakani said. “This will be free of cost.”

People who want to opt for a private testing facility can approach a laboratory and pay Rs 4,500 for the test. After scrutiny, if the person comes under the criteria for testing, the lab will collect the samples. However, private labs in Mumbai have been charging up to Rs 7,000, including the cost of personal protective equipment and service charges.

Mumbai conducts between 3,500 to 4,000 Covid-19 tests daily. So far, over 1.3 lakh samples have been tested.

Till Monday evening, over 5,700 people were found infected with Covid-19 in Mumbai. Around 4,500 of these were found through contact tracing of previously infected people. “We have so many asymptomatic patients because we could identify them before they started showing symptoms,” Kakani said.

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