COVID-19 fight: Ablakwa pushes for free mass testing to curb pandemic

Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa

Member of Parliament for North Tongu, Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, has said that the situation where everyone has to pay a fortune to test for the coronavirus is impeding the fight against the deadly pandemic, hence, his call for government to make it free to enable majority of people to know their status, as this would help curb the disease.

Currently, the minimum amount a person must pay to test for the virus is GH¢350, and that is even in public health facilities where results would take some days to be ready. In private health facilities, some pay as much as GH¢700 to test for the virus if they want results within 24-hours.

Besides this, passengers going in and out of the country through the Kotoka International Airport are slapped with US$150 for testing before they are allowed to board any flight. These and other issues, the law maker says, are retrogressing efforts to fight against the virus, hence, his call for a paradigm shift.

“If you follow what has happened in other jurisdictions, testing has been readily available, and elsewhere, they even have rapid test kits, where you can go to pharmacies, do drive-throughs and test. Testing is prioritized. In Ghana, the average cost for testing is GH¢350, and some places, GH¢500, GH¢700, and it is not affordable to the average Ghanaian. Ghana needs to change the current testing approach, and must adapt a mass-free testing regime.

“The Ghana Medical Association, the foremost institution made up of the experts, professionals, and those who are the frontline health workers helping us fight this virus, have confirmed that medical facilities are now overstretched. The GMA has also confirmed that there are many lapses so far as COVID-19 response in Ghana is concerned.

It is because of these cold facts, coupled with the fact that so many people are dying, and now, it is so close to home, people very close to us are passing away, that we cannot continue with business as usual. We need for a paradigm shift—a totally different response which we hope will yield different results,” the MP told the B&FT in an interview.

On the acquisition of vaccines, Mr. Ablakwa expressed his dissatisfaction at the pace with which government intends to bring in vaccines, saying it should be more urgent than scheduled.

“It is also important for us to be more aggressive and ingenious with our vaccine timelines. So far, as a Member of Parliament with all the briefings we have received, I am not impressed that our government is being aggressive enough. Other countries now accept that the only way out really in dealing with this virus once and for all, is getting the COVID-19 vaccine to as many of their citizens as possible.

I am hearing about May or June [for the procurement of the vaccine], only God knows where we will be by that time if the situation continues the way it is. It is too far-fetched and the consequences will be too devastating,” he said.

Meanwhile, President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, in his latest COVID-19 address to the nation, assured that Ghana will not be left out, as he had put together a team of experts to work out a programme for purchasing COVID-19 vaccines.

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