Findings from a recent opinion poll conducted by a public health advocacy group named #HCCT in Lagos has revealed that less than two per cent of the population of Lagos submitted for COVID-19 tests within the last one year that the index case was recorded in Nigeria through an Italian national.
Respondents in the survey were unanimous in the perception that the cost of procuring a COVID -19 test in Lagos is exorbitant and the free testing centres were too few and far in between to make a difference amongst the huge population.
Findings of the poll which was conducted to determine the impact and response of both government and citizens to the outbreak of the virus indicates that 97.3 per cent of respondents of the 6,372 sampled residents of Lagos were of the opinion that the N50, 000 cost of procuring a COVID-19 test in private health institutions within Lagos is beyond the reach of the average citizen.
#HCCT through its coordinator, Emmanuel Ifedayo, further stated that in the course of follow up questions during the poll, respondents, when reminded that the Lagos State Government has four public laboratories offering free tests were not impressed and had complained that the four public laboratories were not enough, not accessible and have frustrating procedures embedded in their operations, adding that the public laboratories operate only two hours daily and on selected days in the designated primary health institutions.
The Lagos State Government through the state’s Covid-19 Incident Commander, Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, had in its January 2021 report revealed that in the eleven 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 posit that without testing to reveal the true impact of the virus on citizens; it will be difficult to win the battle against the virus which is currently in its second wave.
Respondents further inferred that given the details of the Lagos State report which revealed that one in every four citizens 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. The Lagos State Government will then be in a vantage position to evolve a strategic plan to combat the devastating effect of the deadly virus on its citizens in the global public health crisis in one hundred years,” #HCCT stated.
The poll also revealed that the N50, 000 charges for a COVID-19 test in Lagos is too high compared to other African countries and states in Nigeria. It indicated that in other African countries, adding that “the average cost is N15, 000 while for states in Nigeria, the cost is N30, 000.”
Some respondents further argued that the total direct cost of carrying out the test to a laboratory per person given all variables should range between N12, 000 to N15, 000. They are of the opinion that an average household of five persons may have to pay a minimum of N200, 000 since family members of victims are mandated to also get tested, reiterating that this cost is double for anybody who tests positive because a confirmation test post-treatment is standard practice.
Based on the findings of the poll, residents are united in the conclusion that the current high cost of procuring a COVID-19 test in Lagos is totally unnecessary, counterproductive and amounts to commercialising a service which ordinarily should be a response to a public health issue.
They are advocating for a reduction in the cost of procuring a COVID-19 test by a minimum of 50 per cent as a desirable objective while the nation marks one year of fighting the global pandemic especially in view of the poor economic conditions and the deadly nature of the Coronavirus.