Mumbai, Jun 2 (PTI) The Maharashtra government on Tuesday informed the Bombay High Court that COVID-19 testing facilities need not be set up in every district, as the outbreak is largely confined to urban or semi-urban areas.
Besides, hospitals in many districts can not be upgraded quickly enough to set up coronavirus testing labs, it added.
The reply, by the director of the health services, came in response to a Public Interest Litigation filed by Khalil Wasta.
Wasta had sought a direction to the government to set up laboratories in non-red zone districts such as Ratnagiri.
'The COVID-19 outbreak is largely concentrated in urban and semi-urban locations where testing facilities are scaled up as per requirements and availability of resources,' the government affidavit stated.
'Non-availability of testing centres does not affect the interest of citizens as long as adequate number of sample collection centres are set up at reasonable distance in every locality,' the affidavit said.
The state government was committed to establish testing laboratories at places where it is most necessary, the reply added.
Setting up a COVID-19 testing lab is a highly specialized exercise which needs to be carried out carefully, it said.
'The place where suspected samples are to be tested has to be a very safe and tightly closed and secured place so that there is no possibility of any person coming in contact with samples and risk getting infected,' the affidavit said.
Labs not only require sophisticated machinery, but also need highly trained manpower, the government said.
As per the Indian Council of Medical Research's guidelines, a dedicated COVID-19 testing facility should be set up in a district where the number of patients is increasing by a minimum of 100 per day, it said.
'Hospitals in many districts do not have sufficient prerequisite infrastructure to be readily upgraded to COVID-19 testing facilities and hence presently, it is not possible to start such facilities in each and every district,' the affidavit said.
A division bench headed by Chief Justice Dipankar Datta posted the matter for hearing on June 5.
As per the government affidavit, there are 79 coronavirus testing facilities in Maharashtra at present. PTI SP ARU KRK KRK