Of Expensive COVID-19 PCR Tests and plight Of Nigerian travelers

By Alao Abiodun

Undoubtedly, a lot has changed in the aviation industry across the world due to the COVID-19 pandemic. To many regular air travellers, flying though still remains the fastest and most effective way of traveling, but it has remained expensive and COVID-19 has further aggravated, compounded the costs of travelling.

The commercialisation of COVID-19 testing process raises ethical concerns, besides being a public health crisis, COVID-19 continues to trigger severe social and economic consequences for individuals, corporates and governments across the world.

Generally, the consensus is that this trend of "new normal" is not expected to reverse anytime soon. Air travel is no longer luxury but a necessity. To many travellers, no matter how much addicted to flying, they are confronted with a twin challenge — cost of traveling and high costs of COVID-19 tests.

While it is not out of place to commend the government and aviation authorities for ensuring compliance to COVID-19 regulations and guidelines, it is also necessary to state that the COVID-19 test protocol put in place is good, but the inconsistency in costs of getting tested suggests an incentive of profiteering is at play.

The extortionate prices of PCR tests for passengers is such a huge financial burden especially for travellers who are crisscrossing across different countries and glaringly, many travellers are displeased with the egregious prices of conducting COVID-19 tests.

Nigeria just like many other countries do not only require a negative COVID-19 test from a passenger’s country of departure, but also an additional test upon arrival. These tests are paid for by passengers and are usually conducted regardless of vaccination status.

The high cost of COVID-19 tests for people seeking to travel out of the country and also returning back is quite scary and unfair especially in tandem with the view of current economic realities. While the prices which seems unregulated across states, many laboratories have decided to take unfair advantage of this COVID-19 season.

Today, there are some private accredited labs conducting these tests but they don’t come cheap. Private labs in Abuja, for example, charge upward of 36,000 naira, In Lagos, a private test costs 50,400. Many travellers going to and fro cough out about 72,000 (Abuja) or 100,000 (Lagos).

While the national conversation on solutions to the COVID-19 crisis is centred on mass vaccination, which is still key to combating the spread of the virus, the government must lead the campaign in ensuring digitalised vaccination cards showing an individual has been fully vaccinated, are accepted as the only proof of vaccination.

Even if COVID-19 test protocols will be put in place, the state should ensure that it is done at a minimal/regulated price so that it can be affordable for travellers and not come with additional financial burden.

The excessive COVID-19 travel costs symbolise escalating inequality in the wake of the pandemic. As many private laboratories enjoy a COVID-19 windfall, making huge profits on testing, the less wealthy, or those who have businesses, average persons, and business executives travelling for scheduled business meetings and conferences are forced to forgo their trips as travelling is now becoming something only the rich can afford. The relevant authorities must intervene in addressing this issue.

Alao Abiodun is a Journalist, he can be reached via [email protected].

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