Pan-India diagnostic chain Metropolis Labs has been short-listed by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) to aid in private testing for the novel coronavirus (Covid-19). Once the ministry gives its nod, Metropolis will begin testing for the infection, if required.

“MoHFW is expected to issue an official notification to this effect very soon,” said a spokesperson from the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).

Private labs have to be first approved by the respective civic bodies — for possessing adequate infrastructure and quality control — before being being short-listed by the MoHFW, sources in the industry told BusinessLine.

“Metropolis has been selected and approved by the Mumbai Municipal Commissioner for Covid-19 testing. We are awaiting the formal notification from the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. We are in constant communication with the government,” said a source from the top management of the company.

The share price of Metropolis stood at ₹1,660 on Tuesday at the NSE. It was trading 4.23 per cent higher than the previous day’s close of ₹1592.60.

Covid lab

Metropolis has set up a dedicated and isolated Covid-19 laboratory in Mumbai as an offshoot of the Metropolis Global Reference Laboratory. It is currently well placed to run 2,000 tests a day, which can be scaled up if needed.

The MoHFW has tested over 11,500 throat swabs of persons with travel history to coronavirus-infected regions and their contacts who have exhibited symptoms of cough, cold, heavy breathing, fever and so on. The testing has not been made available to all persons with symptoms.

Paid service?

At present, the test costs close to ₹5,000 in the public sector and is being conducted for free. The ICMR has appealed to the private labs to offer these tests for free. It has not been clarified if they will be reimbursed by the government.

“Currently, the government is doing an efficient job of handling the crisis and, if the need arises, we are ready to step in and take over the additional load. We have put together a Covid Taskforce and the most important task of this team is to ensure accurate testing, the safety of patients and employees,” confirmed Ameera Shah, Managing Director of Metropolis Healthcare.

Metropolis has conducted multiple rounds of training and is getting another facility ready as a standby — this should be up in seven days. The company imports test kits from Altona Diagnostics in Germany. Other companies like Qiagen and Roche also provide kits for testing at present.

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