Residents of Lagos, the most populous state in Nigeria are protesting the high cost of testing for Covid-19 in the state; demanding a reduction in its pricing at private laboratories, desiring availability and accessibility to more public laboratories.
According to findings from an opinion poll conducted by a public health advocacy group named, #HCCT, respondents were unanimous in the perception that the cost of procuring a Covid-19 test in Lagos was exhorbitant and the free testing centres were too few and far in between to make a difference amongst the huge population.
Based on the findings of the poll conducted to determine the impact and response of both the government and citizens to the outbreak of the virus, 97.3 per cent of respondents of the 6,372 sampled residents were of the opinion that the N50,000 cost of procuring a Covid-19 test in private health institutions in Lagos State is way beyond the reach of the average citizen.
The statement released on Monday by #HCCT and signed by its coordinator, Emmanuel Ifedayo, further stated that in the course of one of the follow-up questions during the opinion poll, respondents, when reminded that state government has four public laboratories which offer the service free, lamented that the public laboratories were not enough, accessible and have frustrating procedures embedded in their operations.
Respondents insisted that such public laboratories operate only two hours a day and selected days in the designated primary health institutions.
It would be recalled that the state government through Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, who is the Covid-19 Commander, in its January 2021 Coronavirus report, revealed that in the 11 months under review only 316,801 representing less than two per cent of the approximately 22 million population of Lagos State had been tested.
This is considered a very low percentage by both residents and public health experts who posited that without testing which will reveal the true impact of the virus on the citizens, it would be difficult to win the battle against the deadly virus which is currently in its second wave.
Respondents went further to infer that given details of the Lagos State report which revealed that 1 in every 4 citizen tested, came off with a positive result, clearly if the 22m population of the state is tested, then over 5 million people would likely test positive to Covid 19.
The opinion poll also revealed that the N50,000 charge for a Covid test in Lagos is too high compared with other African countries and states in Nigeria.
It indicated that in other African countries, the average cost is N15,000 while for states in Nigeria, the cost is N30,000, noting that the total direct cost of carrying out the test to a laboratory per person given all variables should range between N12,000 and N15,000.
The opinion poll further revealed that the home service costs N50,000 while other members of the family are mandated to test at a negotiable rate of between N40,000 and N50,000.
It added that an average household of five persons will therefore have to pay a minimum of N200,000 to procure the Covid 19 test in Lagos State, pointing out that this cost is double for anybody who tests positive because a confirmation test post treatment is standard practice.
The residents then maintained that the current high cost of procuring a Covid-19 test in Lagos State which received N10 billion from the Federal Government at the onset of the battle against the coronavirus is totally unnecessary and amounts to commercialising a service which ordinarily should be a response to a public health issue.
They advocated for a reduction of the cost of procuring the test by a minimum of 50 per cent as a desirable objective with the nation marking one year of fighting the global pandemic.
They further implored Sanwo Olu and officials of the state Health Ministry and CACOVID to consider the plight of the citizens given the poor economic conditions and the deadly nature of coronavirus.