FG denies knowledge of alleged N42,000 test fee, but says can’t control private hospital charges
Asks citizens not to pay for test in public hospitals
By Joseph Erunke
THE Federal Government has denied knowledge of alleged N42,000 being charged for COVID-19 test by its approved hospitals even as it says it cannot control how much private hospitals should charge for the compulsory tests for travellers outside Nigeria.
The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, which said this while responding to Vanguard’s enquiry following complaints of arbitrary test charges by government hospitals, insisted that the COVID-19 test is free.
This position was given by the spokesperson for the NCDC, Emeka Oguanuo, who explained that no government hospitals charge any fee to conduct the COVID-19 test.
Oguanuo said: “This testing for travellers specifically is done in private laboratories and private laboratories charge. We don’t know how much they charge for that.
“But if you go to the NCDC website, you will see the private laboratories approved for testing in Nigeria listed out there and the laboratories within our network. The ones within our network are 69 at the moment.
“You may also consider directing this enquiry to the Presidential Task Force, PTF on COVID-19 because the PTF is the one that directed travellers to private laboratories, not NCDC. If you follow the PTF briefing last Friday, you would realise that it was PTF that announced that travellers can go to private hospitals and not NCDC.
“As far as we know, testing is available in government and private laboratories. In private laboratories, whether it is done for travellers or anybody, it is done at a cost but testing in public laboratories is free of charge including treatment and every other thing.
“It is because of congestion that the PTF directed that those who want to run tests for travel purposes should use the private laboratories so that they can leave the public laboratories for people who need attention. That is the situation,” Oguanuo explained.
According to the NCDC spokesman, the decision that travellers should access private hospitals was taken to reduce congestion.
So far, all the approved private laboratories are outside Abuja. Lagos has the highest concentration of approved private hospitals for testing and treatment of the disease.
After speaking with the NCDC’s spokesman, Vanguard correspondent visited the National Reference Laboratory, NRL, located at Gadua, Abuja, pretending to be in dire need to run a test with a view to travelling abroad. He was directed by an official of the centre to access any of the testing centres located in the Central Business District of Abuja.
In compliance with the directive, our reporter visited the NCDC testing centre, located near the famous International Conference Centre, requesting for a test. He was given an emergency number to call.
On calling the number, an official of the agency who responded to the call asked him certain questions and after being satisfied with his explanation, and hearing that he was standing at the gate, asked him to go inside. A sample was later taken from him. This was carried out free of charge.
Vanguard gathered that apart from private hospitals, travellers who are desperate to get their test results immediately, are forced to pay an exorbitant amount to get their clearance certificates, which most countries and airlines require as a condition for flying and landing in their domains.
It will be recalled that some travellers coming to the country had accused the Nigerian government of authorizing some foreign airlines to charge them what they called ‘COVID-19 test fee’, which many of them complained is as high as N42,500 per person.
The travellers slammed Nigeria for the extortion claiming that such tests are done free of charge by the respective countries they are travelling from.