The Akufo-Addo government continuous adamancy to the several complaints against the price being paid for the COVID-19 PCR test at the Kotoka International Airport (KIA) has received an embarrassing slap from the Secretary General of the African Development Bank Group (AfDB), Professor Vincent Nmehielle.
"I just came from South Africa, where I did a COVID test of less than $10 and so I really wonder what that means…. I have a family of seven each and every one would have to pay $150, am not sure I want to come, but I love Ghana that I want to come. I saw bank officials really setting up a bank counter and I am wondering, is this a bank or it is an airport?
The Ministry of Health and other government officials, have justified the $150 charges at KIA, although other countries are collecting far less for a better and more effective tests.
Prof. Nmehielle called on the Ghanaian government to review the $150 fee at the KIA.
The General Secretary, who was accompanied by some officials of the Bank, was speaking to the Minister of Finance, Ken Ofori-Atta recently.
His call adds to others by many stakeholders, including ordinary travelers, who have described the charge as a disincentive for the business community and tourists who wish to travel to Ghana.
Some have even said the cost is very cruel, an attempt to financially milk people through the global pandemic.
Last week, musician Stonebwoy, also expressed disappointment about the same issue and said Ghana was the only place the test cost that expensive.
Despite comparisons to cheaper tests in other countries and calls for a reduction in Ghana, a Deputy Minister for Health, Dr. Bernard Okoe Boye, has defended the $150 being charged so far at the KIA, saying even though there are cheaper ones; they are not able to point out those who are active with the virus.
At a point, the deputy minister and the Member of Parliament (MP) for Ledzokuku, assured the charge would be reviewed downwards to bring some relief to travelers.
But in response to a question at the signing ceremony of the memorandum of understanding between the Government of Ghana and the African Development Bank Group for the hosting of the annual meetings of the AfDB group from May 24 to May 28, 2021, Secretary General of the AfDB Group, said the charge is exorbitant, and a hindrance to the goal of free movement of goods and people on the continent.
"What more can you say about integration? The AfCFTA Secretariat is in Ghana. A key aspect of integration outside of movement of goods is the movement of people. In fact, that brings me to my encounter at the airport that I have to pay $150 to do a COVID test. It was scary for me as I came through. That's going to hamper a lot of free movement and if you ask me, it is exorbitant."
"I just came from South Africa, where I did a COVID test of less than $10 and so I really wonder what that means…. I have a family of seven, each and everyone would have to pay $150, am not sure I want to come, but I love Ghana that I want to come. I saw bank officials really setting up a bank counter and I am wondering, is this a bank or it is an airport?
All passengers coming to Ghana by air are required to pay $150 for a 30-minute PCR COVID-19 test administered by Frontiers Health Care Limited.
This began after the KIA was opened to international traffic on September 1, 2020, after being closed in March 2020, because of the pandemic.
So far, out of the more than 30,000 passengers who travelled by flight into Ghana, following the reopening of the KIA, some ten weeks ago, have undergone COVID-19 testing, with over 90 testing positive.
Meanwhile, new guidelines by management of KIA is that airlines that will board passengers without PCR tests results arriving in Ghana, will be fined USD3, 500 for each passenger.
It added that passengers arriving will have to pay the USD150 for the mandatory COVID-19 test online effective,
Monday, November 16, 2020. This follows a new set of guidelines released by the Ghana Airport Company (GAC).
According to the new guidelines, all international arrivals, including those from the ECOWAS region, will be required to meet the proposed health requirements prior to entry into the country.
"Passengers must not have symptoms suggestive of COVID-19, including body temperature >38 °C", adding: "Passengers must possess a COVID-19 negative PCR test from an accredited laboratory in the country of origin; the test should have been done not more than 72 hours before the scheduled departure time from the country of origin; airlines who board passengers without PCR test result or transport or disembark passengers with positive PCR test result into Accra will be fined USD 3,500 per passenger," the guidelines stated.
The GAC, explained further that "non-Ghanaians may be refused entry and returned to the point of embarkation at a cost the airline" while Ghanaians will be allowed entry but subject to 14 days of mandatory quarantine at a designated location at the passenger's cost."
It, however, noted that: "Ghanaian residents, who depart Ghana and return within one week, will not be required to present a COVID-19 result from the country of departure. They will, however, undergo mandatory COVID-19 testing upon arrival in Ghana".
Also, "passengers will be subjected to a mandatory COVID-19 test at the airport terminal at a cost of USD150 to be borne by the passenger, to be paid online" and "proof of payment (receipt) shown to airline before boarding."
It noted that airlines, who board passengers without proof of payment of the COVID-19 test fees "and would/could not pay for the test in Ghana, will be fined USD 3,500 per passenger".
It added: "Children between the ages of 5 and 12 years will undergo testing on arrival free of charge" with children under 5 years not required to undergo testing at the Kotoka International Airport upon arrival.
Before the revision of the guidelines, passengers arriving in Ghana, were expected to pay for the mandatory COVID-19 test on arrival at the KIA.