The central government will provide free Coronavirus testing and treatment facilities to over 50 crore Ayushman Bharat health insurance scheme beneficiaries. The National Health Authority (NHA) said in a statement on Saturday, that the private laboratories and empanelled hospitals will also provide free service to the beneficiaries.

The NHA,  government organisation which runs the Ayushman Bharat scheme said in a statement, “Testing and treatment of COVID-19 is already available for free in public facilities. Now, more than 50 crore citizens, eligible under the health assurance scheme will be able to avail free testing through private labs and treatment for COVID-19 in empanelled hospitals.”

According to the NHA, this move will strengthen the country”s response to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

“Testing and treatment of COVID-19 is already available for free in public facilities. Now, more than 50 crore citizens, eligible under the health assurance scheme will be able to avail free testing through private labs and treatment for COVID-19 in empanelled hospitals,” it said in a statement.

Hospitals empanelled under the Ayushman Bharat Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (AB-PMJAY) can use their authorised testing facilities or tie up with an authorised testing facility, the NHA said.

The COVID-19 tests will be carried out as per protocols of the Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR) and by private labs approved or registered by it, the NHA added.

Treatment of COVID-19 by private hospitals will be covered under the AB-PMJAY, it said.

Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan took to Twitter and said, “More than 50 crore poor and vulnerable citizens shall henceforth be eligible for free COVID-19 testing and treatment under Ayushman Bharat, PMJAY. Testing at private labs and treatment in designated hospitals now made free for Ayushman beneficiaries across India.”

More than 50 crore poor & vulnerable citizens shall henceforth be eligible for free #COVID_19 testing & treatment under #AyushmanBharat #PMJAY
Testing at private labs & treatment in designated hospitals now made free for Ayushman beneficiaries across India@AyushmanNHA @ibhushan pic.twitter.com/ikXQhhYJJy

According to the health experts the fight against Coronavirus can be won if social distancing and extensive testing are followed rigorously.

India is trying to arrest the spread of COVID-19 pandemic by imposing a 21-day nationwide lockdown.  Meanwhile, extensive testing is something the country is lagging behind with the lowest testing rates among all the affected countries.

Private labs are asked to step in and start testing for the Coronavirus cases. But with exorbitant prices of these tests , poor people would not have been  able to avail this facility.

“Active private sector involvement will be critical in case there is a surge in the number of COVID-19 patient that need care. States are in the process of enlisting private sector hospitals that can be converted to COVID-19 ONLY hospitals,” the NHA said.

The COVID-19 pandemic has claimed 77 lives across India, while the number of positive cases stands at 3,374, Health Ministry said, on Sunday.