Maharashtra Health Minister Rajesh Tope said on Saturday that the state government has decided to reduce the rates of the coronavirus tests conducted by private laboratories from Rs 4,500 per test to Rs 2,200, PTI reported. Testing is free at government laboratories.

“Rs 2,200 will be charged for collecting the swabs through viral transport media from hospitals, while it would cost Rs 2,800 for collection of swab from home,” Tope told the news agency. “Earlier, the charges were Rs 4,500 and Rs 5,200 respectively.”

Tope said the revised rates are the most the private laboratories can charge. He added that district collectors can work with the laboratories to reduce costs further. Tope also claimed that the revised rates will be lowest in the country for private laboratories.

Tope said the Uddhav Thackeray-led dispensation formed a four-member committee last week to reassess and fix the testing rates charged by private laboratories. “If the private labs charge more than the prescribed upper limit, legal action would be taken against them,” the health minister said.

Tope said there are 91 laboratories in Maharashtra for coronavirus testing, and four to five more are being built. The Indian Council of Medical Research, however, has allowed only 44 government and 36 private laboratories in the state to carry out coronavirus tests.

ICMR had earlier set the testing rates for private laboratories, as test kits were being imported. However, they can now be lowered as the kits are being domestically produced. ICMR had removed the Rs 4,500 cap per test on May 27, and said that states can now determine their own rates.

On April 8, the Supreme Court of India directed the central government to make testing for the novel coronavirus disease free of cost at approved private laboratories. Days later, on April 13, the court amended its order and ruled that free tests in private labs are only for people covered by the government’s flagship healthcare programme Ayushman Bharat, and any other category of economically weaker sections of the society as notified by the government.

Maharashtra has by the far the highest number of coronavirus cases for any state in India. On Saturday, the number of cases crossed 1 lakh, nearly a third of the total case count in the country. Of these, Mumbai alone accounts for over 55,000 cases.

On June 10, Tope had denied that Maharashtra was in the stage of community transmission of the virus. Tope said that if there had been community spread, at least 20% to 40% of the cases could not have been traced back to any contact of the infected person. He claimed that the contacts of all infected persons had been traced.

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