Covid-19 test doesn’t cost N1.2 million (US$3,200) in Nigeria – it’s free

Posts circulating on social media claim it costs 1.2 million naira (US$3,200) to test for Covid-19 in Nigeria.

Many appear to come from a widely shared tweet from 17 March 2020 claiming this was the cost of a test at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital.  

Another tweet reads: “Somebody said it cost N1.2 million to test for Covid-19 in Nigeria. I don’t want to believe it because if it’s true…”

According to the World Health Organization, coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that can infect animals and people. In humans, coronaviruses cause respiratory diseases ranging from the common cold to more severe illnesses such as Middle East respiratory syndrome (Mers) and severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars).

Covid-19 is the disease caused by the most recently discovered coronavirus. The Covid-19 outbreak began in Wuhan, China in December 2019 and has since spread to many countries around the world.

There have so far been close on 335,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus infection worldwide, according to WHO data, with nearly 15,000 deaths. Other sources give even higher numbers. By 24 March, Nigeria had 42 cases.

NCDC rates claim ‘false’

The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) told Africa Check on WhatsApp that the claim about the high price of the Covid-19 test was “false”.

On 18 March, the Lagos University Teaching Hospital dismissed the claim in a tweet.  “The test is free in LUTH. However, it has to be at the request of the consultant in charge of the infectious disease unit of LUTH,” it said.

Ripple effects

Marycelin Baba, professor of medical virology and microbiology at the college of medical sciences, University of Maiduguri, told Africa Check that the test could be expensive – but not that expensive.

“Using real-time polymerase chain reaction technique (to test for Covid-19) is more expensive than traditional polymerase chain reaction. But despite that, it doesn’t cost up to N1.2 million.”

Baba said if the test cost N1.2 million, this would lead to “a huge spread of the disease” in Nigeria. “How many labs would be able to conduct the test? And how many Nigerians would be able to afford the test?” 

The NCDC says it has publicly let Nigerians know that the test is free. – Motunrayo Joel

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