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Delhi heading towards becoming the Corona Capital: Delhi HC allows private hospitals with ICMR approved labs to test patients for COVID-19

Aditi Singh

In a bid to prevent Delhi from becoming the "Corona Capital of the country", the Delhi High Court has allowed private hospitals, which are equipped with labs and have been permitted by ICMR to conduct the COVID-19 test, to test symptomatic or asymptomatic persons for the virus. (Rakesh Malhotra vs NCT of Delhi)

The order was passed by a Division Bench of justices Hima Kohli and Subramonium Prasad in petition preferred by Advocate Rakesh Malhotra concerning the rate and status of COVID-19 testing in the city.

Pursuant to a direction from the Court, the Delhi Government placed on record the number of public sector and private sector labs that were permitted to undertake tests for COVID-19 suspected patients.

"..there are 17 labs in the public sector and their current combined capacity for undertaking COVID-19 tests is 2,900 per day. In the private sector, 23 labs have been permitted to conduct the test and their combined capacity of testing is 5,700 per day.", the Court recorded.

To satisfy itself on this critical aspect, the Court issued notice to all the 23 private laboratories mentioned in the report and directed them to file an affidavit clarifying inter alia as to whether they had been permitted to undertake COVID-19 tests and the difficulties being faced by them, if any, on account of any bureaucratic red tapism.

Arguing that it was imperative to ramp up the number of tests undertaken to detect the virus, Petitioner Rakesh Malhotra pointed out that there had been a "phenomenal spike" in COVID-19 cases of COVID-19 in Delhi and it was expected that the number would rise to 5,50,000 by July 30, 2020.

In view of the rate of spread of the contagion, the Court remarked,

It appears that Delhi is fast heading towards becoming the Corona Capital of the country, an epithet the city can well do without. We are of the opinion that it is the need of the hour that all the private hospitals in Delhi, who are equipped with a lab to undertake COVID-19 test, be permitted to do the testing, without any further loss of time. This is all the more imperative as the Delhi Government has directed all the private hospitals in Delhi to reserve 20% beds for admitting COVID-19 patients
Delhi High Court

Further noting that non-COVID-19 patients were being made to wait to take the COVID-19 tests, the Court ordered,

"..it is directed that all the private hospitals in Delhi that have been called upon to reserve 20% beds for admitting COVID-19 patients, are equipped with labs to conduct the COVID-19 test and have the sanction of the ICMR to do so, should proceed to conduct tests on symptomatic/asymptomatic persons, who seek admission in the hospital for undergoing surgeries/procedures of other nature as well."

The Court, accordingly, impleaded ICMR as a party to the proceedings and directed it to file the details of the private hospitals authorised by it to undertake COVID-19 tests.

The matter would be heard next on June 18.

Additional Standing Counsel Satyakam appeared for Delhi Government.

Standing Counsel Anurag Ahluwalia appeared for Centre.

Read the order:

Rakesh Malhotra vs NCT of Delhi - June 11.pdf
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