Context: A petition was filed on Tuesday in the Supreme Court seeking a direction to the government to provide free COVID-19 testing in all laboratories, including private ones.


  • Recently, the government today allowed NABL-accredited private laboratories to start testing COVID-19 samples. However, It issued guidelines capping the cost of sample testing by private labs at Rs 4,500.
  • Private labs testing is to ensure real time reporting to Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme (IDSP) and the ICMR headquarters for timely initiation of contact tracing and research activities.


  • The petition says that the advisory was both discriminatory and a violation of the fundamental right to life under Article 21 of the Constitution.
  • It is extremely difficult for the common citizen to get himself/herself tested in the government hospital/labs and the people are constrained to pay the capped amount to the private hospital/labs for protecting their lives. 
  • The non-accredited labs were not conforming to the standards of global best practices prescribed by International Laboratory Accreditation Co-operation (ILAC) and Asia Pacific Accreditation Co-operation (APAC).

Suggestions: The petition said that ideally the COVID-19 tests should be conducted under NABL (National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories) accredited pathological laboratories.

  • NABL is a Constituent Board of Quality Council of India. NABL has been established with the objective of providing Government, Industry Associations and Industry in general with a scheme of Conformity Assessment Body’s accreditation.

Govt. guidelines regarding Coronavirus test

The National task Force has recommended the maximum cost for COVID-19 samples testing at private labs at Rs 4,500. "This may include Rs 1500 for a screening test for suspect cases and an additional Rs 3,000 as confirmation test charges," the notification said.

  • Appropriate biosafety and biosecurity precautions need to be taken during the testing and while collecting the respiratory samples.
  • As a preference, home collection of samples may be done by private testing laboratories.  This will avoid transmission of the virus.
  • The guidelines recommended only real-time PCR-based assays for COVID-19 testing. They added conventional PCR, in-house real-time PCR and antibody/antigen tests are not recommended.
  • The authorised private laboratories will be sending all COVID-19 positive samples to NIV, Pune under suitable biosafety and biosecurity precautions laid down by ICMR.
  • The guidelines are subjected to amendments with latest developments. Non-conformity he above-mentioned guidelines shall lead to legal action.

About Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme (IDSP)

  • It is one of the major National Health Programme under the National Health Mission for all States & UTs. 
  • The key objective of the programme is to strengthen/maintain decentralized laboratory based IT enabled disease surveillance system for epidemic prone diseases to monitor disease trends and to detect and respond to outbreaks in early rising phase through trained Rapid Response Team (RRTs).

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