The Delhi High Court on Thursday pulled up private laboratories, those who have stopped conducting onsite tests for COVID-19, observing that the number of cases of COVID-19 infection are shooting up phenomenally.
The High Court also asked the private laboratories to approach the Delhi government with regard to extra expenses while conducting the COVID-19 tests.
A division bench of Justices Hima Kohli and S Prasad said that it is not acceptable that the private laboratories will stop conducting onsite tests at such a critical juncture where the number of cases of COVID-19 infection are shooting up phenomenally, on a day by day basis.
"In the event, any of the private laboratories have stopped sending phlebotomists for collecting onsite samples to undertake the RT PCR test for any reason, they shall immediately respond to the letters written by the Government of NCT Delhi," the bench said in its order.
"If there is any issue with regard to extra expenses that we are told the private labs are likely to incur on this account, which doesn't cover their costs in terms of rate fixed for the test by the Delhi government -- Rs.2,400 -- it is for the private laboratories to approach the Delhi Government, raising the said grievance," the order said.
The High Court noted that private labs' several grievances against the Delhi government have been largely resolved by the expert committee constituted by the Lieutenant Governor, Delhi. But most of the private laboratories have stopped collecting onsite samples, it noted.
Delhi government standing counsel and advocate Satyakam submitted that the government had written individually to all the private labs seeking clarification from them as to whether they are continuing with the collection of onsite samples, for undertaking the RT PCR test and most of the laboratories have reverted back saying that they have not stopped the same.
The court also enquired as to why the private hospitals declared as COVID-19 hospitals are not being permitted to undertake the rapid antigen tests.
Responding to the court, Satyakam said that the circular dated June 23 issued by the ICMR has stated that any private lab or hospital would have to approach the ICMR for obtaining authorization for undertaking the rapid antigen test.
ICMR's counsel and additional solicitor general Chetan Sharma sought time from the court to solve its queries, after which the court asked the ICMR to file an affidavit clarifying the issues.
Thereafter, the High Court listed the matter for further hearing on July 14.
The court asked Delhi government to file a status report indicating in a tabulated form, the number of Antibody Tests that have been undertaken by it from June 27 to July 5, the number of rapid antigen tests, RT PCR test, CBNAAT and TrueNat tests for the said period.
Meanwhile, petitioner Rakesh Malhotra submitted that on an analysis of the figures that the state govt has mentioned regarding the RAT test undertaken by it in affidavits, it transpires that the said figures do not tally with the figures that are displayed on the official portal and there is a mismatch to the extent of approx 30 percent.
Besides, about 30 government hospitals have been provided user credentials in the past 24 hours to undertake the RAT test, out of which 20 government hospitals have started the process.
The High Court was hearing an application seeking to increase the number of laboratories that can undertake tests for COVID-19 and ramp up the testing process in respect of asymptomatic and symptomatic patients.
The intervention application was filed by advocate Sanjeev Sharma on a petition filed by advocate Rakesh Malhotra in person that was disposed of by the Bench, vide order dated May 4. (ANI)