The cost of more-reliable but expensive RT-PCR tests for detecting COVID-19 has been cut to Rs950 from the earlier Rs1,250, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said.
The Trinamool Congress chief also announced distribution of free tablets for 9.5 lakh students of class 12 to facilitate online education amid continued closure of schools in view of the coronavirus pandemic. “These tablets would be for students of 14,000 schools and 636 madrasas,” she said during an interaction with reporters on Thursday.
She also announced 3 per cent dearness allowance for state government employees in January.
This is the second time the West Bengal government has revised the price of RT-PCR tests for its private hospitals and labs amid an ongoing coronavirus surge that started in the run up to state’s all-important Durga Puja festivities.
In October, chief minister Mamata Banerjee had not only reduced Covid test cost from Rs 2,250, but also capped cost of private ambulance service amid reports of patients being charged exorbitant rates even for short distances.
The measures were taken after doctors wrote to Ms Banerjee warning of a “tsunami” of infections during Durga Puja, just like Onam in Kerala – where daily cases remain in the 4,000-6,000 range, albeit with very low mortality rate.
West Bengal has been seeing a rise in coronavirus infections and deaths since September, with a record 4,000 cases being logged on October 22. The state has since consistently logged between 3,000-3,500 cases. Its Covid fatality rate has also remained higher than the national average of about 1.5 per cent.
The state has so far recorded 4.9 lakh COVID-19 cases with 8,527 deaths.
The cost revision also comes in the backdrop of many states adopting similar measures to promote testing through RT-PCR, which some doctors have said remains prohibitively priced.
The Supreme Court is also hearing a plea that seeks the cost of RT-PCR tests capped at Rs400.