The government on Monday fixed the fees for the RT-PCR test for COVID-19 suspects as it decided not to continue the service free of cost in order to ensure a ‘proper management by avoiding unnecessary tests’.
The Health Services Division of the health and family welfare ministry on the day issued a circular to the effect despite criticisms by public health experts of the move to introduce fees for the COVID-19 test at the government-run health facilities.
A test seeker will be charged Tk 200 for the test if the sample is provided at a designated collection booth and Tk 500 if the sample is collected from their home. A hospitalised patient will also have to pay Tk 200 for the test.
In the circular, signed by health ministry deputy secretary Bilkis Begum, the government said that it decided to impose the charge to ensure a proper management by ‘avoiding unnecessary tests’.
It said that many people were seeking the test without having coronavirus symptoms as the service did not require any costs at the designated government health facilities.
These charges will apply only to government labs as the fees for the private-sector tests were fixed earlier.
The circular added that the existing rule about the tests for the government employees, freedom fighters and the poor people without any fee would continue to remain.
About the charging of fees for the COVID-test, freedom fighter and doctor Professor Quazi Quamruzzaman earlier said that it was inhuman, adding that the government took the move in a situation in which people were going through hardship.
He told New Age 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.
Bangladesh Health Rights Movement president Rashid-e-Mahbub told New Age that charging for the test 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 test 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 test was insensible as protecting people in a pandemic was a duty of the government.
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.
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