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COVID-19 antigen test at Kotoka Airport to be capped at $50 for ECOWAS citizens

BY: Nana Konadu Agyeman

President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has directed that the cost of COVID-19 antigen test at the Kotoka International Airport (KIA) be reduced to $50 from $150 for ECOWAS citizens.

Non ECOWAS citizens will continue to pay $150 for the test at the airport.

The reduction in the cost is in response with the protocols of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) that require member states to review and cap the cost of COVID-19 test at $50 at various countries’ borders.

At the 58th Ordinary Session of the Authority of Heads of State and Government of ECOWAS held on January 23, 2021, and chaired by President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, the performance of member states in the pandemic fight were reviewed.

During this review, the harmonization of cross-border movement of persons and goods was approved and as part of this approval, it was agreed that PCR testing for travel within the sub-region will be capped at a maximum of $50.

Order

The Minister of Health-designate, Mr Kwaku Agyeman-Manu, who disclosed this on the floor of Parliament last Friday, however, stopped short of disclosing when exactly the reduction in the cost of antigen test would take effect.

“The President has actually given orders that we should quickly make our implementation modalities to see how best this can be implemented in the country and I believe, if anything at all, this allow ECOWAS citizens to access the tests at the airport at $50 as it has been agreed by ECOWAS,” he stated.

North Tongu MP’s concern

Mr Agyeman-Manu was responding to a concern raised by the Member of Parliament (MP) for North Tongu, Mr Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, about the cost of COVID-19 test at the KIA.

The MP had informed the House that Ghana’s COVID-19 antigen test which cost a whopping $150 at the KIA remained one of the most expensive if not the most expensive airport COVID-19 antigen test anywhere in the world.

He described the amount as punitive and retrogressive as it had led widespread agitation and incessant appeals from the general public for an urgent intervention especially by the House.

“Mr. Speaker, there is hardly a day passing without our constituents, Ghanaians in the diaspora and members of the general public reaching out to us on the cut-throat cost which they consider to be most unbearable – a view I strongly share and identify with. The public outrage has continued to play out on many media outlets.

“What is even more striking is the realisation that the overwhelming majority of countries with the more superior antigen tests at their airports have charges that are shockingly far cheaper than Ghana’s ANTIGEN test cost,” he stated.

Cost of infrastructure

Explaining the rationale for the charge of $150 at the KIA, Mr Agyeman-Manu said the infrastructure that was put up at the airport to do the antigen test efficiently was quite unparallel around the world.

“People who were travelling across Europe and the Americas will come and testify to this; these things come at a cost but we will take a good look at what is now on board and I believe things will begin to ease up a little bit."

He indicated that Ghana was battling with antigen test initially as the Food and Drugs Authority (FDA) restricted the use of certain antigen tests but today new antigen tests have been certified by the World Health Organisation (WHO) that have been tested by the authority and would be utilized in Ghana.

He pointed out that all public health facilities that conducted such COVID-19 tests were still doing so for free and warned that no public testing facility should charge money for the test to make the fight against the pandemic more efficient.

Time for local vaccine production

He did inform Parliament that the time for manufacturing of local vaccines was now, a reason that government had been meeting vaccine manufacturers in the country over the past three days.

“We are doing quantification of numbers and we are looking at sources of funding to be able to do what will bring us the vaccines as quickly as possible,” he assured.

Distribution of facemasks

Mr Agyeman-Manu, who is MP for Dormaa Central, acknowledged that the spread of the viral disease had become worse as transmissibility was far bigger than before in the wake of detection of new variance in Ghana.

He also said the severity of illness was becoming worrisome and called on all citizens and transport unions to continue to compliment the government’s effort to curb the spread.

He further informed the House that close to about 20 million facemasks had been procured and they were being distributed to various educational institutions across the country.