New Delhi, April 8: The Supreme Court asked the central government on Wednesday to ensure that testing facility for Covid-19 is made available free of cost to all citizens.

At present, private laboratories are allowed to charge people to test for the coronavirus disease (Covid-19), though the same is capped at Rs 4500.

A bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan and S Ravindra Bhat asked the government to explore the feasibility of a mechanism to reimburse private labs for coronavirus tests so that citizens don’t have to pay for it.

“Don’t allow private labs to charge high amount for tests. Create mechanism for reimbursement (of private labs) from government,” Justice Bhushan suggested.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the central government, told the court that he will take instructions in this regard.

Private labs have been roped in India to conduct tests for Covid-19 since government facilities are not sufficient in the face of increasing case counts. According to the Union health ministry website, India reported 5,194 cases and 149 fatalities as of Wednesday afternoon.

The petitioner, advocate Shashank Deo Sudhi, submitted that government hospitals are packed to capacity and it has become difficult for the common man to get himself/herself tested in the government labs.

With no alternative in sight, they are forced to pay money to get the tests done at private labs, the petitioner said, adding that saddling ordinary citizens with such financial burden effectively deprives them of their accessibility to medical facilities and is violative of right to life guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution.

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