Private laboratories in Nigeria are making billions of Naira from COVID-19 test payments by international travellers.
On the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) website, there are separate lists of 73 government labs, 35 private labs and 7 corporate labs.
Currently, a passenger spends between N80,000 and N85,000 for both departure and post-arrival tests.
The cost of COVID-19 PCR test varies across private facilities. It ranges between N36,000 to N50,000 naira.
Boss Mustapha, Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) at a Presidential Task Force briefing, disclosed that 163,818 inbound travellers were captured on the Nigeria International Travel Portal as at December 21.
“Out of this number, 77,025 (47 percent) made payment for post-arrival testing”, Mustapha, the PTF chairman, disclosed.
This means the 35 centres have realized billions from more than 70,000 passengers.
In its explanation, the NCDC noted that the resources available to public laboratories are to support 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.
They contend that testing at government labs would be cheaper, while funds generated could be used in the management of the pandemic.
A media executive, Alhaji Ismail Sani berated NCDC for promoting private healthcare service against public facilities for COVID-19 tests.
“The money spent by travellers should be government income instead of private laboratories’. When people test positive for the virus, they are not taken to private facilities but either Gwagwalada, National Hospital or other facilities funded by the government”, he told PRNigeria.
“So why should the government fall short of providing testing facilities? Why must we spend so much money in equipping government hospitals for emergencies but no facilities to test passengers. Why must we go to mere consultancy clinics?” Sani quipped.
ND REPORTERS reports that the issue has been a subject of debate since last year.
Everyday, Nigerians complain about the cost of COVID-19 test, pointing out that it is the major reason people don’t bother to check their status.
Africa’s most populous country has recorded over 121,000 cases of coronavirus.
With a population of over 200 million, stakeholders fear that the official figure is only a fraction of actual cases nationwide.