The test for coronavirus is the same as the one for swine flu⁠— and that could cost up to ₹15,000 in private labs

  • As of now, the first initial two tests to diagnose coronavirus are free in India and the government subsidy is ₹5,000 per test.
  • So far, coronavirus tests weren’t allowed in private labs but soon, those certified by the National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories may be allowed.
  • The certified laboratories test the virus through real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and gene fingerprinting, the same tests are conducted for other viral infections.
India has so far (as of March 16) tested 6,000 patients for coronavirus and all of them have been free for the suspected victims. The government is estimated to bear a cost of ₹5,000 per test, Balram Bhargava, Head, Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), and Secretary, Department of Health Research told the Hindu Businessline.

Coronavirus tests weren’t allowed in private labs but soon, those certified by the National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories may reportedly be allowed.

Since it is not clear whether private labs will get the subsidy for testing potential coronavirus victims, Business Insider decided to explore the possible costs for those who want to go to a private lab.

The tests conducted to identify COVID 19 or SARS-CoV-2 are the same as the ones used to detect swine flu and other viral infections— real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR). The cost of the testing kit and the process can cost upto ₹12,000, according to Dr. Inder Maurya, Founder & CEO, Foreign OPD in Navi Mumbai, Maharashtra.

Five samples including nasal and throat swabs used as specimens to detect the virus. Private labs around the country charge anywhere between ₹10,000- ₹15,000 for every swine flu test.


Govt labs/ICMR for COVID-19 ₹5,000 ($67.45)
Private for swine flu test (same process for COVID-19)₹10,000- ₹15,000 ($135 to $202)

A coronavirus test in China reportedly cost about 370 yuan ($53). Whereas the average cost of treating the diseases can be 5,600 yuan ($799) and 23,000 yuan ($3284) for elderly patients, according to Chinese Hospital Management Journal.

In the US, the coronavirus confirmation test is free for all Americans but people might have to bear a bill of upto $1,295 for treatment, Business Insider estimates. Whereas, people with insurance will pay an estimated $491. The results of the test can take upto 12-24 hours. South Korea, which is testing about 20,000 suspects daily, takes a few minutes to run the results. Whereas Britain is taking more than 48 hours to show results.

India must be prepared to increase the number of tests


There are 52 certified laboratories in India which can test the novel coronavirus and has the capacity to conduct 10,000 tests a day. The Indian Council of Medical Research says that it has about 100,000 testing kits. And it has ordered 200,000 more. Opening up private labs may increase the capacity for such tests.

India has 110 coronavirus cases as of March 16, which includes 17 foreign nationals. So far, 13 people have recovered and two deaths have been reported in Karnataka and Delhi each.

See also:
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Coronavirus: Maharashtra becomes Coronavirus epicenter with 33 infected cases