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What is the RT-PCR Test? How Much will You have to Pay for Getting the Test Done?

A health worker takes a nasal swab sample of a man to test for COVID-19 during random testing of people at the Delhi-Noida border on the outskirts of New Delhi. (AP)

A health worker takes a nasal swab sample of a man to test for COVID-19 during random testing of people at the Delhi-Noida border on the outskirts of New Delhi. (AP)

The RT-PCR test can detect the acute infection, however, it can’t detect whether the patient has recovered from Covid-19 or he/she had Covid-19 in past.

A Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction, commonly known as RT-PCR test, is the most effective test for detecting COVID-19 virus in human cells. In the RT-PCR test, a small amount of DNA is taken and specific sequences of the genetic material are amplified to diagnose acute infection. The RT-PCR test can detect the acute infection, however, it can’t detect whether the patient has recovered from COVID-19 or he/she had COVID-19 in past.

The coronavirus is an RNA virus, thus a sample swab – either a nasopharyngeal or oropharyngeal –are sent for RT-PCR test which includes several steps to convert that RNA into viral DNA. The test is very specific for the virus and if a patient tests positive, then the patient has COVID-19.

After the COVID-19 outbreak across the country, it was made mandatory for every state to conduct a Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR), especially for the travellers.

What is the cost of RT-PCR Test?

The cost of the RT-PCR test has been kept changing from the beginning of the Coronavirus outbreak. Each state in India has separate charges for RT-PCR test. The private labs in Delhi earlier charged Rs 2,400 for the RT-PCR test, as capped by the Delhi government in June. However, recently, the government has reduced the RT-PCR test cost to Rs. 800 in private labs, while in the government establishments, the test is conducted for free.

Earlier, a subsidiary of SpiceJet airline SpiceHealth had also set up its COVID-19 testing facility in Delhi and announced to conduct the RT-PCR test, starting at Rs 499. They also announced that the report will be made available within only six hours from the time of collection of sample. Usually, it takes 24-48 hours for test reports.

Apart from the Delhi government, Uttar Pradesh government had also reduced the cost for RT-PCR test to Rs 600 in October 2020. Earlier, people had to pay Rs 1600 for the test at private labs in the state. In September, the Uttar Pradesh government had slashed the cost of RT-PCR test in all laboratories, including privately-owned ones, from Rs 2,500 to Rs 1,600.