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Group faults $150 Covid-19 test fee imposed on international arrivals

BY: Isaac Yeboah
Health Minister Kwaku Agyeman-Manu
Health Minister Kwaku Agyeman-Manu

The Bureau of Public Safety (BPS) has labeled government’s imposition of $150 as fees for Covid-19 test on all international travelers arriving in the country as a grave violation of International Health Regulations.

BPS has consequently asked for the immediate withdrawal of the $150 testing fee per traveler.

Per a statement issued in Accra Wednesday, September 2, petitioning the Health Minister, BPS wants the government to rather enforce a 14-day mandatory self-isolation regime for passengers arriving without a PCR test (used to directly detect the presence of an antigen) taken within the preceding 72 hours prior to arrival, and also maintain a 72-hour prior-take-off/travel testing requirement.

“As a socially engaged and committed organization, the BPS wholeheartedly welcomes efforts to stop the spread of the novel corona virus. However, we find the Government’s decision to mandatorily levy all travelers a $150 USD testing fee a grave violation of Part VII of the International Health Regulations (2005), which states, inter alia, that ‘Except for travelers seeking temporary or permanent residence, no charge shall be made by a State Party for any medical examination provided for in the IHR, or any supplementary examination which may be required by that State Party to ascertain the health status of the traveler examined for the protection of public health.’ (Article 40 Para 1, & 1(a)).”

President Akufo-Addo in his 16th address to the nation on Sunday announced the further easing of restrictions on movement imposed to contain the spread of the coronavirus and said all arrivals at the Kotoka International Airport (KIA) from Tuesday, September 1, would be expected to go for a mandatory Covid-19 test at a cost of $150 to the traveller.

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Below is the full petition by the Bureau of Public Safety, signed by its Executive Director, Nana Yaw Akwada.

The Honorable Minister
Ministry of Health
Accra

Dear Sir,
INTERNATIONAL HEALTH REGULATION VIOLATION: $150 PER TRAVELER MANDATORY COVID-19 TESTING FEE AT GHANA’s AIR PORT OF ENTRY

The Bureau of Public Safety (BPS) writes to draw your attention to a direct contravention of the World Health Organization’s International Health Regulations (IHR) by the Government of Ghana requiring your immediate attention.

Following the lifting of the ban on air travel by the Government of Ghana on 1st September, 2020, the Ministry of Health, in conjunction with the Ghana Health Service, has instituted a $150 mandatory COVID-19 test fee to be levied on travelers upon their disembarkation at the Kotoka International Airport. This is, apparently, part of the Government's measures to stop the international spread of the novel corona virus.

As a socially engaged and committed organization, the BPS wholeheartedly welcomes efforts to stop the spread of the novel corona virus. However, we find the Government’s decision to mandatorily levy all travelers a $150 USD testing fee a grave violation of Part VII of the International Health Regulations (2005), which states, inter alia, that ‘Except for travelers seeking temporary or permanent residence, no charge shall be made by a State Party for any medical examination provided for in the IHR, or any supplementary examination which may be required by that State Party to ascertain the health status of the traveler examined for the protection of public health.’ (Article 40 Para 1, & 1(a))

The BPS therefore wish to request your outfit to:

1. Withdraw with immediate effect the USD 150 testing fee per traveler completely,

2. Maintain the 72-hour prior-take-off/travel testing requirement, and

3. Enforce a 14-day mandatory self-isolation regime for passengers arriving without a PCR test taken within the last 72 hours

The BPS herewith call on your high office to be guided by the purpose and scope of the IHR (2005) which are “to prevent, protect against, control and provide a public health response to the international spread of disease in ways that are commensurate with and restricted to public health risks, and which avoid unnecessary interference with international traffic and trade.”

We further wish to call upon the Director-General of the World Health Organization to call all State Parties signed on to the IHR (2005) who are in violation of this regulation, to immediately implement fully the International Health Regulations (2005), in accordance with the purpose and scope set out in Article 2 and the principles embodied in Article 3. Indeed, we are not in normal times and thus, a watchful and a responsive World Health Organization is just what the world, especially middle income and poor countries, need at this time.