The Uttar Pradesh government has capped the maximum price chargeable by private laboratories for testing for COVID-19 at Rs 1,600 with effect from tomorrow, Sep 11. Earlier, the maximum rate was Rs 2,500.
The 900-rupee reduction has been made keeping in mind the higher availability of testing COVID-19 testing kits in the country and with a view to reduce the burden on the government machinery.
At present, most of the testing is still being carried out by the state government, for which citizens do not have to pay any charge.
However, government testing is not open to anyone and everyone, but is conducted on the basis of certain criteria and algorithms.
COVID-19 testing is still not accessible on demand to regular people (asymptomatic people without any apparent contact with infected individuals) in most states of India.
Uttar Pradesh, along with Bihar, is already at the top of the charts as far as the number of tests conducted per day is concerned.
The state, home to around one in six Indians, currently conducts around 1.5 lakh tests per day, out of which around 6,500 (4.3%) are testing positive in recent days.
UP has been among the most aggressive and proactive states in India as far as conducting COVID-19 tests has been concerned.
The state crossed the 1 lakh tests/day mark about six weeks ago, when most other states were conducting only 10,000-20,000 tests per day.
For comparison, Maharashtra, the state that reported 23,577 new COVID-19 cases yesterday, conducted less than 1 lakh tests that day, giving it a positivity rate of around 24%, nearly 8 times the prevalence rate detected in UP.
The difference can also been in the relative contribution of these states to the national tally. Uttar Pradesh, which accounts for 6.4% of all the COVID-19 cases ever reported in India, accounts for 13.1% of all the tests conducted in India.
Similarly, Bihar, home to just 3.4% all the COVID-19 cases ever reported in India, nevertheless contributed 8.4% all tests conducted in the country so far.
On the other extreme, Maharashtra, which has contributed 21.6% of all COVID-19 cases in India so far, accounts for only 9.34% of all the tests conducted in the country.
The exact reason why some states like Maharashtra are not reporting high test numbers is not clear.
Ideally, 50 persons have to be tested for each new positive Coronavirus case. In other words, the test positivity rate must remain under 2%.
However, the test positivity rate in Maharashtra is at around 20% — meaning that one out of every five persons tested in the state are found to have been infected by the virus.
Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Delhi and Goa — with test positivity rates between 10%-12%, follow Maharashtra in this regard.
Bihar, along with north eastern states like Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram and Meghalaya, is among the states with the lowest test positivity rate with only 3.5% of those tested reporting the virus. In other words, out of the 100 people tested in Bihar, only 3.5% turn out to have been infected against the national average of 8.4%.
Besides testing, some states have also fixed upper limits on what hospitals can charge from COVID-19 patients.
Uttarakhand has fixed the maximum hospital charge at Rs 18,000 (including the cost of PPE kits) for patients with very severe sickness requiring ventilator care for hospitals with National Accreditation Board for Hospitals (NABH) accreditation and Rs 15,000 for other hospitals.
Similar rates have also been fixed in states like Kerala, Jharkhand, Bihar, Delhi, Haryana and Maharashtra.