Wednesday, September 23, 2020 | ePaper

Fee for Covid test in public health facilities is not a good idea

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THE government has shifted its stance from free testing to fee testing at public health facilities that would not help anybody except making the contagion viral to low-income people. The government tested Covid-19 at free of cost till the last day of June, but what prompted the government to impose fee when experts are ringing the warning bell. The Health Ministry which failed to extend testing facilities, therefore prevent researchers to predict the trend of contagion, took the decision when the number of death and confirmed cases sharply rising.
None of the other South Asian countries charges any fee for the tests at their public healthcare facilities. Imposing such a fee at government-run facilities is rare anywhere in the world. Experts said the government move would serve as a setback in efforts to contain the spread of the virus as many, especially those from the poor section of the society, might not be able to get tested at public hospitals and booths even if they show symptoms. It will eventually increase the risk of further transmission of the virus, at a time when the country still lags in terms of aggressive testing of people as suggested by the WHO.
The fees will be an additional burden on people whose lives and livelihoods have already been affected badly by the pandemic and the subsequent two-month-long shutdown that brought economic activities to a grinding halt. According to a Health Ministry circular, one has to pay Tk 500 for Covid-19 testing if samples are collected from home. The fee will be Tk 200 if samples are given to dedicated sample collection booths or public hospitals. Private hospitals and health facilities charge each person Tk 3,500 for Covid-19 testing. The fee goes up to Tk 4,500 if samples are collected from individual's home. The country is at 28th position in terms of test per million, when India and Pakistan in 26th and 27th position respectively.
Due to the decision, we will be able to know the infection rate only among the affluent people. Test and treatment facilities for the affluent section of the society would not help to contain the contagion, rather plagues the public health and the economy for long.

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