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I think we as Ghanaians need to bring enough pressure to bear on our government to take another look at the antigen-based COVID-19 test we conduct on international passengers arriving at the Kotoka International Airport.
All scientists I’ve spoken with and even officials of the Ghana Health Service agree the test is not as effective in detecting the virus as the gold standard PCR, especially when we ask the travelers to only come to Ghana when they have a negative PCR test. Yet, when they arrive at the Kotoka International Airport we conduct a relatively “inferior” test on them and charge $150 for a test that costs far less.
With the rate at which our cases are increasing, my suspicion is that a lot of the people who came into the country, especially during Christmas are likely to have “sneaked” through our airport testing regime, having been certified as negative though positive, and entered the country with the false notion that they don’t have coronavirus and will therefore go about spreading the virus unknowingly.
One of the arguments in favour of the antigen-based test is how quickly the results can be produced, often within 40 minutes so that the passengers will be happy to leave the airport if they’re negative. But should it be about the passengers’ convenience or the safety of the general populace?
One other justification for the relatively high test fee is that the private company invested heavily in the testing infrastructure at the airport. But hasn’t the company recouped its investment already after 130,544 airport tests (January 11) multiplied by $150. That’s $19,581,600. (Ethiopia in 2015 was to build three airports with $64.5 million).
Here’s how at least one country I know, goes about its airport COVID-19 tests and which I’d propose for government’s consideration.
All passengers are to come in with a negative PCR test result as we currently do and have their samples taken on arrival at Kotoka for a PCR test which could be done for $60 at a profit as being charged by private labs in Ghana. We could then check these passengers into designated hotels (with adequate security) which hotels government can negotiate with so they heavily discount their rates as they will be guaranteed business. So maybe $80 or even $90 for the 24 hours hotel stay within which period the PCR test results should be available. If you’re negative, you’re free to leave the hotel but sent into quarantined care if found positive.
The total cost of test a night’s hotel stay will still come to $150 but for a more effective test and while at it, we would have given our hotels some good business to keep them afloat.
It’s my suggestion. If you have a better idea, propose it too and don’t insult. Otherwise, let’s share it with the people who matter and even refine it for our collective good.
In the meantime though, please observe the preventive protocols and stay safe.