THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: At a time when the demand for RT-PCR tests is increasing as more people are likely to travel with the lockdown restrictions being eased, small private labs are scaling down their operations due to the cap in the price they can charge. Travellers depend on private labs because of ease of access and quicker turnaround time. While public labs take 3-4 days to give the results, private labs deliver the same in 5-8 hours.
The Karnataka government has made it mandatory for travellers from Kerala to carry a Covid-negative certificate after undergoing RT-PCR tests done within 72 hours before the trip. Similarly, the Kerala government has made hotels in tourist destinations accessible only to those carrying a negative certificate.
These requirements can be avoided if the person is fully vaccinated. If the normal flight services resume from July 21, travellers to the UAE will need to obtain Covid-negative certificates after RT-PCR tests taken within 48 hours along with Rapid RT-PCR tests within four hours before departure.
However, standalone private labs are not keen to invest in facilities and manpower. The price cap of `500 per test is not sustainable and they wouldn’t be able to meet the surge in demand, they say.
“The standalone labs are the worst affected due to the capping of the price. Many have spent over Rs 50 lakh for the new facility. But the rate is not sustainable. The government fixed the rate based on the kits purchased by Kerala Medical Services Corporation (KMSCL). While KMSCL gets a huge discount for procuring over 10 lakh kits, the small players purchase just 200-300 kits at a much higher rate. They have decided not to increase capacity even if the demand rises,” said C Balachandran, managing director of Jeeva Specialty Laboratory and a member of the Private RT-PCR Labs Consortium.
He added private labs would be hesitant to start rapid RT-PCR tests for travellers because of the unscientific pricing.