The issue has arisen concerning how much money private laboratories are making from COVID-19 testing, especially from international travellers’ payments to get tested.
On the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) website, there are separate lists of 73 government labs, 35 private labs and 7 corporate labs.
How are these private labs cashing out on COVID-19 testing?
Right now, passengers spend between N80,000 and N85,000 for tests both for departure and post-arrival.
The cost of COVID-19 PCR test varies across private facilities. It ranges between N36,000 to N50,000 naira.
Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha, at a Presidential Task Force briefing, disclosed that 163,818 inbound travellers were captured on the Nigeria International Travel Portal as at December 21.
According to Mustapha, out of this number, 77,025 (47%) made payment for post-arrival testing, Mustapha, the PTF chairman, disclosed.
This means the 35 centres have made billions from well over 70,000 passengers.
In its explanation, the NCDC noted that the resources available to public laboratories are to support COVID-19 testing for the general public, and not for the travelling contingent.
But concerned citizens and medical practitioners have raised concerns about the agency’s approval of private labs.
The argument is that testing at government labs would be cheaper, while funds generated could be used to manage the pandemic.
A media executive, Alhaji Ismail Sani berated the NCDC for promoting private healthcare service against public facilities for COVID-19 tests.
Sani said, “Why should the government fall short of providing testing facilities? Why must we spend so much money on equipping government hospitals for emergencies but no facilities to test passengers. Why must we go to mere consultancy clinics?”
Everyday, Nigerians complain about the cost of COVID-19 testing, pointing out that it is the primary reason people don’t bother to check their status.
Africa’s most populous country has recorded over 121,000 cases of coronavirus.
With over 200 million people, stakeholders fear that the official figure is only a fraction of actual cases nationwide.