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$150 for Covid-19 test ‘very exorbitant’ – AfDB Secretary-General calls for reduction

Mr. Humphrey Kwesi Ayim-Darke. AGI Vice President - Small & Medium Scale Enterprises (SMEs)

“Something needs to be done” about the ‘expensive’ cost of COVID-19 test at the Kotoka International Airport, Secretary-General of the African Development Bank Group (AfDB), Professor Vincent Nmehielle, has urged the government.

Travellers are required to take a Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) COVID-19 test at the airport at a cost of $150 per person.

The test is undertaken by Frontiers Health Care Limited and commenced after the government lifted the ban on international travels in September.

With Ghana hosting the secretariat of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), business-related flights into the country are expected to spike when the deal is implemented fully.

However, Professor Nmehielle, believes the fees would be counter-productive for economic integration with people declining travels to Ghana.

At the signing ceremony of the memorandum of understanding between Ghana and the African Development Bank Group for the hosting of the annual meetings of the AfDB group from May 24th to May 28th 2021, Professor Nmehielle called for a reduction in the fees.

“In fact, that brings me to my encounter at the airport that I have to pay $150 to do a COVID test. It was scary for me as I came through and I said ‘that’s going to hamper a lot of free movement’. It is very exorbitant if you ask me. I just came from South Africa where I did the COVID test of less than $10,” he raised a concern.

With a family of seven, he is likely to pay $1050 anytime he comes to Ghana and this he said, serves as a disincentive even though he would like to be in the country frequently.

He also questioned the flooding of banks at the airport collecting the COVID-15 fees.

“I was wondering whether it was a bank or it is an airport,” he added in an interaction with the Minister of Finance, Ken Ofori-Atta.

The cost of the test has been greeted with disapproval from a section of the public including the Minority in Parliament.

“No one is disputing the fact that we needed to take some safety protocols to open up the airport. The problem we have is, we want to know why Ghana is charging $150,” Minority Spokesperson on Transport Kwame Agbodza stated while questioning the selection of the private firm handed the contract.

The Chamber for Tourism Industry Ghana (CTI Ghana) also warned that the expensive mandatory $150 Covid-19 test fee could discourage tourists from coming into the country.

The Chief Operating Officer of CTI Ghana, Angela Akua Asante, said: “Although it is unsubstantiated what exactly goes into the cost, a comparative analysis of costs of running tests in other countries shows that Ghana’s is on the higher side”.

However, the government defended and maintained the cost without any review.

Deputy Minister of Health, Dr Benard Oko-Boye justified the amount as a good bargain since “nothing is more expensive than contracting COVID-19 itself.”

“We looked at what is being charged across the globe so when you go to a place like Zimbabwe you pay about $210 for a test. In China, you pay about $150 for a test and they are even doing PCR which is a very good test that identifies the virus itself.

“But in China after paying $150 you have to wait for about 6 hours average before you get results. Also remember that anyone coming into Ghana must have a negative PCR test and, on the average, in Europe, if you enter a lab to do that, it is about 100 euros,” he explained.

 

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