Tests are democratically not available to everyone at present; People recommended by Doctors can be tested: A Velumani, Thyrocare
We haven’t launched the kit but have launched testing, i.e. we buy kits that are available, conduct test and provide results and this is our job. We have a testing history of around 90 days with us. We started the process in the last week of March and have conducted around 1 lakh tests to date.
Arokiaswamy Velumani, Chairman & Managing Director (CMD) and Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Thyrocare, talks about the COVID antibody test facility that it has launched, the viability of business if the COVID test price is halved, tests being conducted on a daily basis and availability of test kits among others during an interview with Swati Khandelwal, Zee Business. Edited Excerpts:
Q: You have launched testing kits for COVID-19 at your centres. How is the response that you are getting on those kits?
A: We haven’t launched the kit but have launched testing, i.e. we buy kits that are available, conduct test and provide results and this is our job. We have a testing history of around 90 days with us. We started the process in the last week of March and have conducted around 1 lakh tests to date. We have the single largest private testing laboratory. The workload is more in Mumbai and we have got a lot of work here. The price reduction has happened for a good cause and I think one can do good business even at this price level.
Q: Supreme Court has reduced the price of the test by half. Do you think that is the cost of viable of the companies?
A: When something starts, then the numbers of suppliers is low and the arrival of such a pandemic shoots up the demand, which creates monopoly among the suppliers. The cost of raw materials is too high. The number of suppliers goes up after an interval of a month or two, which increases competition between them. Plus, the raw material that was available at Rs 1,400 at the start has come down to Rs 900 and this is why the government decided to reduce the price. Secondly, as long as the volume is good, there will be a good profit at this price as well.
Q: What is the rate of testing on a daily basis and is it same across the country or is more in specific regions?
A: Quality nationwide is the same, i.e. the procedure that is used is in accordance with the ICMR kit and has been standardized in terms of quality. But the cost hasn’t been standardized because every state has been provided with the right to set their price. Few states have kept it at Rs 2,000, while there are states where the test has been priced at Rs 2,500. There are certain states where test cost has been kept at Rs 3,500, yet. Thus, it is not uniform across the country and when we do business then we will have to follow the rules of the state otherwise actions will be taken against us.
Q: But, how many tests are being conducted on a daily basis in terms of numbers?
A: As I have said that 1 lakh tests have been done so far. We conducted 1,200 tests on an average under the floor, last week. We have a capacity of 5000 tests/day but till date, we cannot test everyone but only to those who are recommended by the doctors. This means tests are democratically not available to everyone the government hasn’t permitted it till date. So, when this permission is granted than more people can get themselves tested. So maybe we can use our entire capacity of 5,000 tests by the end of July or August.
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Q: You are saying that demand is good and people are reaching to us but you have said that you are not able to use it completely as testing hasn’t been democratized till date and it is happening to ensure availability of kits. Do you think that there are concerns related to testing kits or a lot of work has been done on it?
A: If you will do a study on PPE then you will find that there was a time when our production was very low but now it is surplus in which people are seeking permission to export the same. Similarly, the cost for PCR tests have gone down today then this means that the supply has increased; this is a simple logic behind this factor. The cost doesn’t remain less when the supply is low. As I have informed, the raw material cost has reduced from Rs 1,400 to Rs 900 and it has happened because its supply has increased. It, the supply, will continue to increase until there is a demand in the market and the capacity of the laboratory will increase accordingly. I don’t have any doubt related to the availability of test kits.
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