Withdraw $150 Fee For COVID-19 Test, It’s Against WHO Regulation – Public Safety

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The Bureau of Public Safety (BPS) is asking the Minister of Health, Kwaku Agyeman Manu to immediately withdraw the 150-dollar fee charged for COVID-19 test at the Kotoka International Airport (KIA).

The Managing Director of the Ghana Airport Company Limited, Yaw Kwakwa on Monday, August 31, 2020, announced that passengers who come into the country through KIA will be compelled to undertake mandatory COVID-19 testing at a fee of $150.

But according to BPS, the charge is “a grave violation of Part VII of the International Health Regulations (2005).”

BPS in a letter to the Health Minister dated Wednesday, September 2, 2020, demanded the immediate withdrawal of the fee.

“Withdraw with immediate effect the USD150 testing fee per traveller completely.”

The Bureau of Public Safety further urged the Ministry of Health to direct the Ghana Health Service to “maintain the 72-hour prior-take-off/travel testing requirement and enforce a 14-day mandatory self-isolation regime for passengers arriving without a PCR test taken within the last 72 hours.”

Okoe Boye clarifies $150 fee for COVID-19 testing at KIA

In an earlier interview, a Deputy Health Minister, Dr. Bernard Okoe Boye justified the 150-dollar COVID-19 test fee.

“We’ve heard comments which suggest this is a rapid test and rapid tests are cheap and all that. It’s true most rapid tests are cheap because they go in for antibodies…Before you even develop an antibody, it takes between two to three weeks minimum to have them in your blood in your system and by that time your viral presence would have gone and whoever you would have come across, you would have already infected the person before the antibody could pick you. So, if you have a system like we have in Ghana of trying to stop entry into the country then rapid antibody testing is a no-go area.”

“So this test that is happening at the airport is an antigen test and I have complaints that the PCR test is not expensive so why is this more expensive than that one? Simply put, a PCR test is also an antigen test. Antigen goes for the causative organism and a PCR first extracts the DNA material and the RNA material. But what we have at the airport is one that doesn’t go through that long process but is able to identify the virus using amino acid technology.”

Below is the letter from BPS to the Health Minister

Dear Sir,

INTERNATIONAL HEALTH REGULATION VIOLATION: $150 PER TRAVELER MANDATORY COVID-19 TESTING FEE AT GHANA’s AIRPORT 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 coronavirus.

As a socially engaged and committed organization, the BPS wholeheartedly welcomes efforts to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus. 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 responsive World Health Organization is just what the world, especially middle income and poor countries, need at this time.

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