The Delhi High Court on Thursday ordered all private hospitals in the city that have been ordered to reserve 20% beds for Covid-19 patients to conduct tests for the virus on both symptomatic and asymptomatic people who seek admission even for other health problems, Live Law reported. The court said that the tests may be done in the private facilities that are equipped and sanctioned by the Indian Council of Medical Research.

A division bench of Justices Hima Kohli and Subramonium Prasad also directed the ICMR to file a status report highlighting the number of applications submitted by accredited laboratories in Delhi seeking permission to conduct coronavirus testing, and the progress of such requests. The court passed the orders while hearing a public interest litigation seeking direction to the Delhi government to increase testing facilities for both symptomatic and asymptomatic patients.

The Delhi government told the High Court in a status report it filed on Thursday that there are 17 laboratories in the public sector and their combined capacity for Covid-19 testing is 2,900 tests a day. The status report said there are 23 private laboratories, which can conduct a total of 5,700 tests a day.

However, the petitioner submitted that at least six of these facilities have been prohibited from conducting tests. The Arvind Kejriwal-led government had last month issued a notice to eight laboratories for testing asymptomatic patients.

The High Court directed all 23 laboratories mentioned in the status report to file affidavits by June 15 stating as to whether they have been permitted to undertake tests for suspected coronavirus patients, and whether they face any bureaucratic hurdles in doing so.

“It appears that Delhi is fast heading towards becoming the corona capital of the country, an epithet the city can well do without,” the court observed. “We are of the opinion that it is the need of the hour that all the private hospitals in Delhi, who are equipped with a lab to undertake Covid-19 test, be permitted to do the testing, without any further loss of time.”

The petitioner also told the High Court that there had been a “phenomenal spike” in the number of coronavirus cases in the national Capital. He pointed out that the Delhi government itself has said that there will be 50,000 cases by June 15 and 5.5 lakh by July 31. Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia had made these estimates on June 9.

Delhi has reported 32,810 cases of the virus, including 984 deaths, as of Thursday. It is the third-most affected state after Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu.