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Sri Lanka’s BOI firms asked to test 5-pct of workforce a week, legislator questions costs

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s Board of Investment has asked export firms to conduct PCR tests on 5 percent of the workforce from four private hospitals, a legislator said, asking whether the price of a test can be lower than now.

Opposition legislator SM Marikkar told parliament that the Board of Investment had designated four private hospitals where tests could be done.

He said the current price of a PCR test was 6,500 rupees.

Marikkar said there were tens of thousands of workers and export firms which were already in trouble would have to spend more money and questioned whether price of a test could be lower.

Marikkar said he was personally aware that a medical supplier had bid for a government contract at 6.50 dollars a test kit.

The actual conduct of a test however has other costs.

In general high volume testing would bring down the costs and there would be opportunities to negotiate bulk discounts, economic analysts say.

Sri Lanka National Medical Regulatory Authority had set a price control at 6,500 eliminating competition.

The price controls were set at the height of the pandemic when both PCR machines and test kits were in short supply. NMRA also raided a hospital that was offering tests.

Setting price controls disrupts supply and investment in emergencies and may also prevent prices falling later when situation improves.

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The NMRA also set price control on masks amid the emergency again disrupting supplies. Price controls were later removed allowing shortages to end. (Colombo/Oct08/2020)