The Member of Parliament for North Tongu, Mr Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, is advocating a special dispensation for Ghanaians returning to the country from abroad in connection with the compulsory $150 fee for COVID-19 tests for all travellers into Ghana after the airport was opened for arrivals on Monday, 1 September 2020.
Passengers arriving in Ghana are to pay the amount for a 30-minute PCR COVID-19 test to prevent the importation of the virus but some travellers and critics say the amount is on the high side.
Contributing to the discussion, Mr Ablakwa noted that Ghanaians returning home from abroad have been under a lot of stress already and deserve continuous empathy in the wake of the COIVD-19 pandemic and, therefore, the government must consider reducing the price for them.
In a Facebook post, the lawmaker said: “I have always advocated some special dispensation for our fellow Ghanaians, particularly in difficult circumstances such as these”.
“Our government would seriously have to consider a significant reduction in the advertised US$150.00 for a COVID-19 test”.
“Most of our returning compatriots have been under a lot of stress and deserve our continuous empathy”, the opposition MP said.
“Another policy option is to have a graduated arrangement where foreigners coming to conduct big business are made to pay a little more to subsidise stressed Ghanaian returnees.
“A policy alternative of this kind would not be new to the aviation industry where price differentials have long existed in visa fees, ticketing cost, lounge rates etc.”, he suggested.
A nonprofit social policy think tank, African Centre for Health Policy Research and Analysis (ACH- PRA), for example, has said the charges for the PCR tests are exorbitant.
The Executive Director for ACH-PRA, Dr Thomas Anabah, told Valentina Ofori-Afriyie on Class 91.3FM’s 505 on Monday, 31 August 2020 that though private companies have been mandated to undertake the tests at the airport, other private health facilities charge less compared to the charges required to be paid at the airports but the government says the amount is reasonable.
Deputy Health Minister of Health, Dr Bernard Oko-Boye, explained to journalists at a press conference on Monday, 31 August 2020 that: “As a ministry and a government who are stakeholders in the management of COVID-19, we were very much interested in the cost of the test”.
“We wanted to make sure that the cost of the test will not put an unnecessary burden on the passenger.
“So, we quickly looked at what is being charged across the globe”.
Comparing what happens in Ghana to what pertains in other countries, Dr Oko-Boye said: “When you go to a place like Zimbabwe, you will pay about $210 for the test”.
“In China, you will pay about $150 for the test.
“In Togo and Benin you will pay about 150 euros and in Nigeria, it is 130 dollars but you will have to go to a hotel and lodge till the results are ready.
“With the turnaround time and accuracy of the test assured, we had to decide whether the $150 was enough to cover all the expenses. We finally agreed to peg it at that for now.”