Residents of Lagos State, the most populous state in Nigeria and the epicentre of the ravaging corona virus pandemic, 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.
Findings from a recent opinion poll, conducted by a public health advocacy group named, #HCCT, revealed that respondents were unanimous in the perception that the cost of procuring a COVID-19 test in Lagos was exhorbitant and that 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,which was 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 of the state 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.
A statement released on Monday by #HCCT and signed by its coordinator, Mr. 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.
The 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 Incident Commander, in its January 2021 Corona Virus 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 have 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 will be difficult to win the battle against the deadly virus, which is currently in its second wave.
Respondents went further to infer that given the details of the Lagos State report, which revealed that one in every every citizen tested, came off with a positive result, clearly if the 22 million population of the state is tested, then over five million people would likely test positive to COVID-19.
They then disclosed that the Lagos State government will then be in a vantage position to evolve a strategic plan for combatting the devastating effect of the deadly virus on its citizens in the global public health crisis in 100 hundred years.
The opinion poll also revealed that the N50,000 charge for a COVID-19 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 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.
Maintaining 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 corona virus, is totally unnecessary and amounts to commercialising a service, which ordinarily should be a response to a public health issue,the residents 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 Governor 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 corona virus.