Covid-19 Tests: The Rich And Panicked Are The Ones Getting Tested, Says Thyrocare’s A Velumani
Items from a Covid-19 test kit are displayed for a photograph. (Photographer: Michael Nagle/Bloomberg)

Covid-19 Tests: The Rich And Panicked Are The Ones Getting Tested, Says Thyrocare’s A Velumani

A majority of those getting tested for Covid-19 are the rich and panicked even as the Supreme Court has directed that all screenings are to be conducted free of cost by private and public laboratories.

That’s according to Dr. A Velumani, owner and chief executive officer of Thyrocare Technologies Ltd. While it’s a cause for concern, he is hopeful that the situation will improve with each passing day.

The listed diagnostics chain started free Covid-19 tests after the apex court’s verdict last week. “Except the first man was a rich man, his car was more expensive than my car. Even if you give it free, the rich man can reach faster than the poor,” he told BloombergQuint in an interview. The poor or symptomatic are still not getting tested as only those with automobiles are able to reach them, he said, adding the country’s crisis management was “falling short everywhere”.

All laboratories, including Thyrocare, however, are waiting for the government’s communication on reimbursements. “All inputs are highly costly, all vendors look for advanced payments,” he said, adding that smaller labs cannot bankroll free testing.

The Supreme Court in its verdict suggested that the government can come up with a mechanism where the private laboratories can be reimbursed for these tests, instead of making the citizens pay for it. Meanwhile, the government said it aims to ramp up testing five-fold to 1 lakh per day.

A total of 1,86,906 samples were tested till 2:30 p.m. on April 12, according to Indian Council of Medical Research. In the last five days, average number of samples tested were 15,747, with 584 testing positive, ICMR said on Sunday. There are total of 219 testing facilities in the country, of which 68 are private.

According to Velumani, all players in the private sector are working on increasing capacity. Clarity and support from the government, however, will be key, he said. Currently, Thyrocare cannot handle more than 400-500 tests a day due to limited space allotted for microbiology testing.

About the industry, he expects healthcare to emerge as the largest industry in the post-coronavirus era as people realise that “immunity is the true wealth”.

As for the listed laboratory firms, there is another embarrassment waiting to happen, Velumani said. “If your balance sheet shows best ever profit in the times of pandemic, it will be very embarrassing.”

WATCH | Thyrocare’s A Velumani On State Of India’s Covid-19 Testing Facilities

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