Testing drops in Bengal’s private labs after govt caps cost, total tests cross 1 million mark

The numbers of swab testing in several private laboratories have dropped over the past one month after the West Bengal government fixed the rate of Covid-19 tests and brought it down to nearly half in June-end.

The number of tests in government laboratories, however, has shot up. The total number of samples tested in the state, including private laboratories, crossed the one million mark on Wednesday and touched 1.03 million

“The state government had on June 26 capped the cost of Covid-19 testing to Rs 2,250 at private laboratories and private hospitals in the state. Earlier it was Rs 4,500. Thereafter the number of tests per day has dropped in some private laboratories,” said a senior official of the Bengal government’s health department.

One private laboratory tested more than 11,000 samples in the last 15 days in June. In the month of July, however, it could conduct only around 9000 tests. Another well-known laboratory chain conducted more than 60,000 tests in the last 15 days of June. However after the cost was capped, the number of tests came down to half in July.

“Some of our employees tested positive and the facility had to be closed down for some days for sanitization. We decided to go slow. Also as the government has ramped up its own testing facilities more people are now approaching the government laboratories,” said an official of a well-known private laboratory in Kolkata.

Even though some private laboratories said that they have increased their testing rate, it is not as high as the government’s testing.

“We have almost reached our optimum capacity and hence can’t increase the number of tests any more. We are trying to procure an extra machine by the end of August to ramp it up further,” said an official of the private hospital where samples are tested.

The Mamata Banerjee administration which, had earlier received flak from the inter-ministerial central team and the opposition parties for its low testing rate in April, has now increased its daily testing several times.

While in the first week of April there were only four state-run laboratories and less than 100 samples were tested per day, by the first week of May the number of samples tested per day was increased to around 2500. In the first week of July the number was further ramped up and 10,000 tests were being done in one day. Now more than 22,000 tests are done in 57 laboratories.

“The number of tests is being further increased with antigen tests. More than 24,000 antigen tests have already been done. We are going to increase the number of daily tests to around 25,000,” said a senior health official.

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