Neuberg Diagnostics provides free Covid-19 testing for the poor

Maitri Porecha New Delhi | Updated on March 26, 2020

The price of testing has been capped at ₹4,500 by the Indian Council of Medical Research   -  AFP

Lab will test anyone who furnishes a valid doctor’s prescription

Neuberg Diagnostics, whose four labs have received approval from the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) to test for novel coronavirus (Covid-19), said that it will provide free Covid-19 testing to the poor if they furnish a below poverty line ration card.

Currently, the price of testing has been capped at ₹4,500 by the ICMR.

The Neuberg labs will process request of anyone who has a valid doctor’s prescription saying they require a Covid-19 test. While Neuberg’s Chennai facility has already started collecting Covid-19 suspected samples, other three labs in Ahmedabad, Pune and Bengaluru will soon follow the suit and provide reports within 24 hours locally as well as within 48 hours for other cities provided courier movements remain uninterrupted.

Neuberg in its Chennai facility has already collected 50 samples on the first day since it’s opened doors for testing. “On the first day itself, we are witnessing huge queues to give samples. If you are with symptoms and young, stay nearby and are fit enough to walk-in to the lab but with a valid doctor’s prescription along with their medical registration number, an identity and address proof for testing, we will process the request. We are yet to collate figures of how many samples have been collected through home visits,” Aishwarya Vasudevan, Chief Operating Officer, Neuberg Diagnostics, told BusinessLine.

The primary fear with persons coming to labs to give samples is that they could be carriers of SARS-COV2, the virus which leads to Covid-19.

Home collection

The company has said that it will do home collection of suspect samples only if the person is elderly or is severely sick and cannot travel to the lab.

Vasudevan said that even as there is global shortage of Personal Protective Equipment after companies from Korea stopped supply, as of now, the company had enough stocks for its phlebotomists (technicians who go on the field for sample collection).

“After every home visit, the PPE gear has to be disposed off and changed for fear of spreading infection. It is challenging,” said Vasudevan. Neuberg has over 120 phlebotomists in four labs.

GSK Velu, Chairman, Neuberg Diagnostics, said that as of now the labs are testing only those patients with symptoms, but going forward they may begin testing persons without symptoms too as it may be required to augment the travel ban, identify individuals with the infection, isolate them so that the virus can be curtailed.

Neuberg will be scaling up its capacity up to 2,000 to 2,500 tests per day as per ICMR guidelines by next week, Velu added.

Contact details

To get tested at the lab the person needs to call on 04448505050 and 8939999215 (between 8 am and 8 pm). If the patient has no travel history, but is in the hospital with symptoms of respiratory illness like pneumonia, she or he can also be tested.

Currently, ICMR guidelines say that those patients who have symptoms of fever, cough, breathlessness with international travel history and their contacts who have symptoms can be tested. Also, those who show symptoms of pneumonia or respiratory distress but have no travel history or contact can also be tested. ICMR is slowly roping in private sector for testing, as cases go up, because government alone cannot bear the burgeoning load of samples, as also because they have not been able to arrange logistics of home collection in far flung districts, a capacity that private labs possess, a health official said.

Until last week, ICMR was looking at solving the issue of district hospitals asking suspected patients to walk in to hospital to submit their nose and throat swabs, which is highly inadvisable in the light of the fact that virus spreads quickly from person to person.

Gurugram-based SRL Labs, Mumbai-based Metropolis, Delhi-based Lal and Dangs are other labs who have begun or will soon begin Covid-19 testing in the private sector.

Published on March 25, 2020

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