The National Coordinator of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, Dr Sani Aliyu, has said the country cannot afford to conduct free COVID-19 tests for passengers arriving into Nigeria.
Aliyu, who made this statement on Saturday during a webinar organised by the Chairman of the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission, Abike Dabiri-Erewa, explained that the country would run out of test kits if it chooses to test the 5,000 to 7,000 persons who come into the country daily.
For this reason, he said, travellers must pay for the full cost of COVID-19 testing.
The coordinator explained that the kits were expensive and testing everyone was not sustainable.
He said, “The main reason why we can’t test people is due to the number of passengers we get into Nigeria. It is nothing compared to Ghana or other countries. We get between 5,000 and 7,000 passengers when we fully open the airport every day. There is a slightly smaller number that goes out.
“At the moment, we have done just half a million tests. The tests are very expensive as we all know. PCR tests are very expensive in Nigeria and even in developing countries. At any point in time, we have 300,000-400,000 test kits available. The majority of these test kits are donated by our donors. We have some we have bought. We are in the process of buying about another half a million or so.”
He added, “If we were to take up the travel testing, we will run out of test kits in no time, believe me. We will be tripling the number of tests every day and it is not sustainable. Even in developed countries, like the United Kingdom for instance, yes you do testing and it is free under the National Health Service but it is not for travel purposes.
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“The moment you say travel, they would ask you to go private. We have had colleagues that had paid £250 for a test in the UK before coming from the private sector. We are trying as much as possible to push the cost of PCR down for the private laboratories but one of the things we have said is that they will not be allowed to double-dip.
“They will not serve the public sector and private sector. They have to do it only within the travel sector side and the more laboratories we have coming onto the portal, the easier it will push down the cost. I am very sure the cost will come down.”
The PTF Coordinator listed Lagos as the only one charging N50,000, noting that others were charging between N36,000 and N39,000 for testing.