Govt to charge for test for COVID-19

Health experts irked

Ahammad Foyez | Published: 00:06, Jun 29,2020


The government is going to charge people for COVID-19 tests as a circular in this regard is expected to be issued within a day or two fixing the fees for the state-run facilities now carrying out the tests for free.

‘Tk 200 will be charged for each test if the patient comes to a designated sample-collecting booth and Tk 500 if the service provider goes to the patient’s house to collect the sample,’ health secretary M Abdul Mannan told New Age on Sunday.

He said that the system would be introduced from the date the circular would be issued.

Earlier, on April 29, the Directorate General of Health Services allowed the private hospitals to conduct COVID-19 tests for Tk 3,500 and Tk 5,000.

Tk 3,500 is charged if the patient comes to the hospital and Tk 5,000 if the hospital collects the sample from the patient’s house.

The authorities have taken the move at a time when they are still fumbling about their tasks in detection, isolation and treatment of the patients to effectively contain the novel virus.

Freedom fighter and doctor Professor Quazi Quamruzzaman termed the move as inhuman saying that the government took the move in a situation in which people were going through hardship.

He said that the decision would further upset people as the poverty and uncertainty of livelihood prompted the authorities to reopen everything with a high risk of infection.

He urged prime minister Sheikh Hasina to stop the move taken by the health authority.   

Bangladesh Health Rights Movement president Rashid-e-Mahbub told New Age that charging for tests in the COVID-19 pandemic situation was an anti-people move as it was the government’s duty to ensure the tests and treatment facilities for the people now.

He pointed out that India and Nepal too were continuing tests free of costs to ensure safety of others not infected yet.

He said that the move was just a manifestation of the government’s privatisation-prone outlook.

Bangladesh Medical Association secretary general Ehteshamul Haque Chowdhury told New Age that he saw no reason for imposing fees on the COVID-19 tests while the government announced a Tk 10,000-crore stimulus package to fight the COVID-19 crisis.

He further said that charging people for the COVID-19 tests was insensible as protecting people in a pandemic situation was a duty of the government.

Swadhinata Chikitsak Parishad president Professor Iqbal Arsalan said that a minimum fee was needed from the well-off people to ensure discipline in the COVID-19 test process while the tests should be kept free for the needy.

He said that a section of people were misusing the free test opportunity.

Nari Grantha Prabartana executive director Farida Akter said that the government move would go in favour of the people involved in privatising the health sector.

She said that ensuring the tests and treatment for the people in a pandemic was a part of the public health prevention programme.

The government, she emphasised, should get back from the decision.    

Epidemiologist and advisor to the Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research Mustuq Husain said that imposing fess in the name of ensuring discipline in the COVID-19 test process was not acceptable.

He said that the move would act as a reason for denying the test facilities for marginal people.   

On Sunday, Bangladesh confirmed 43 more COVID-19 deaths and 3,809 new infections in the 24 hours until 8:00am on the day.

The new figures have taken the death tally to 1,738 and the total number of infections to 1,37,787 since the disease was reported in Bangladesh on March 8.

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