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Diagnostic chains see gradual increase in non-COVID revenue

Diagnostic chains, whose regular non-COVID testing business was battered by the pandemic, are seeing a gradual recovery in sales during the financial year. Metropolis Healthcare, Dr Lal Pathlabs, and SRL Diagnostics have shown an increase in revenue from their non-COVID testing in successive quarters, and the companies are expecting this to increase even as the number of active COVID cases continue to rise in the country.

“In the earlier wave, non-COVID testing fell because initially in April, the lockdown, especially in Maharashtra, was so severe that it created panic among people, and stalled movement. Now people are going about their normal lives. So non-COVID is not as badly affected,” Ameera Shah, managing director, Metropolis Healthcare said.

For April-June, COVID revenue contributed 28.54% and 21.05% of topline for Metropolis and Dr Lal Pathlabs respectively, which increased in the following quarter as the number of new COVID cases rose to more than 80,000 per day in September. However, for October-December, the contribution of COVID revenues declined as the number of cases started falling. For Metropolis, the contribution of COVID revenues to overall revenues came down from 34.48% in the September quarter to 18.60% in the following quarter. A similar trend was seen for Dr Lal PathLabs.

For Dr Lal PathLabs, non-COVID business in their largest market, the national capital region, for October-December was equal to the corresponding period of previous year’s revenue, while the rest of India also showed strong volume and value growth.

Fortis Healthcare’s subsidiary SRL Diagnostic’s non-COVID business showed a 93.5% recovery as compared to pre-COVID levels, the diagnostics chain’s management said in an investor call last month.

However, there have been structural changes for these diagnostics firms. With a second wave of COVID-19 likely to hit the country, especially major cities such as Mumbai, Delhi, Pune, there is a greater demand for home collection of samples. This could lead to less optimal use of manpower as fewer samples can be collected by one lab professional in a day in home collection than at a centre. Live Mint