New Delhi: With India aiming to scale up its COVID-19 testing fivefold as the number of cases has crossed the 5,000 mark, several private labs have been roped in to conduct the testing as government facilities are not sufficient.

India’s apex court has suggested that the Modi government devise a reimbursement mechanism for tests done by private labs so that the charges are paid by the authorities and not the people.

A bench with Justices Ashok Bhushan and S. Ravindra Bhat was hearing a plea seeking a free COVID-19 testing facility for all citizens of the country.

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

"Almost 15,000 tests are being done by 118 laboratories on daily basis. This was not sufficient. So private labs had to be roped in for COVID-19 tests. We have involved 47 private laboratory chains. It's a developing situation", Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said, explaining why private labs are being roped in.

Currently, private laboratories are capped to charge INR 4,500 ($60). The plea further stated that as public hospitals are already packed to capacity, it becomes difficult for people to pay the capped amount to the private hospitals/labs for testing. It added that amount puts financial burden on the people and deprives them of their accessibility to medical facilities.

India had conducted a total 1,14,015 tests as of 7 April and the Indian Council of Medical Research is preparing for more testing in the coming days, with hotspot areas as a focal point. 

As of 8 April, COVID-19 cases have surged to 5,194 with 149 deaths. The western state of Maharashtra remains the worst it by the pandemic, with more than 1,000 cases, along with Tamil Nadu and Delhi.