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Money-spinning COVID-19 tests choke travellers

Nigerians travelling abroad are still stuck with pricey payment for the mandatory COVID-19 test introduced by the Federal Government to curb importation of the COVID-19 virus and its circulating variants.

Within a few days of travel, many are forced to run as much as four separate tests at N50,400 each in mandatory private laboratories in Nigeria as well as abroad where it could be totally free or sometimes cost more.

The National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) continues to reserve free testing at public laboratories exclusively for medical purposes – a decision that still fails intended patients and leaves travellers with costly travel bills.

Kunle Afolayan, one of Nigeria’s leading movie producer and director in an Instagram post questioned the motif fuelling what he described as a thriving pandemic venture built around testing.

The post, which generated several sour experiences, sought explanations why tests done in less than 12 to 24 hours before boarding is not enough to clear inbound travellers.

“I think there is some sort of racket going on here and this is tied to the government. It is really disturbing. Should a pandemic then become a money-making venture at the detriment of the citizens,” Afolayan queried.

Read Also: FG bans travellers from Brazil, India, Turkey amid surge in COVID-19 cases, deaths

“Something has to be done because I was almost not checked in last time because of QR code. It failed and they said I need to make the payment. It is like double taxation,” he said.

Gboyega Akosile, chief press secretary to Lagos State governor responding to the filmmaker’s agitation, gave a breakdown, hinting at the requirement for multiple tests on blocking the virus access to the country.

“Whenever you cross international borders, you need to bring in a negative COVID-19 result to show you are Covid free from your originating country,” he said.

“When you arrive in Nigeria, you have to test on day seven to ascertain you didn’t contract the virus on your trip. So, on a Lagos to London or Ghana to Lagos trip, you will do test 1 in Lagos (N50,400) because London requires it for entry. Test 2 on day 2 in London (£100) because they need to confirm you didn’t contract it on your trip.

“Test 3 will be done before you leave London (£100) because Nigeria needs to be sure you are negative on arrival and not coming with another strain. Test 4 done on day 7 in Lagos (50,400), which you must have paid 4 before flying.

“You pay to Lagos or FG because the government maintains quality control and supervision so that leaves don’t cut corners. We are in Covid times and most governments feel the cost of your personal travel test shouldn’t be on other taxpayer’s funds.”

Many agitated by the high cost raised concerns about how it sometimes forces them to forfeit work opportunities that might have otherwise earned them incomes.

An Instagram user with the handle name ‘etalloyd’ narrated how he forfeited a few jobs requiring travelling out because the cost of testing outweighed the amount to be earned.

According to Tejumola Oladayo, another user expressing his frustration, Covid test is free in Qatar and with vaccination, permanent residency and routes other than India, Nepal, and Bangladesh people can travel freely.

“Nigeria always finds means to make citizens suffer and I don’t know why they make life so inconvenient. The money is not going to make any positive impact in fighting COVID-19,” he said.

Nigerians have been expecting a change of tactics in the management of COVID-19 testing. They want the government to loosen its grip on free testing and stop restricting free testing to only symptomatic people and those with confirmed contact with positive cases.

Charges by Nigeria’s private laboratories at N50,400 ($132) is one of the highest fees for COVID-19 test in Africa.

Nigerians pay 59 percent higher for COVID-19 test than peers in South Africa; 43 percent more than what is paid in Senegal; 24 percent above Kenya and Ghana, and 75 percent higher than India’s.

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