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‘Cap Covid test price’

Expert calls for action to prevent profiteering amid soaring daily new cases

25 Jan 2021 / 07:59 H.

PETALING JAYA: Health stakeholders are calling for a price cap on Covid-19 testing to avoid profiteering. This comes following a rise in the number of Covid cases in the country, with figures expected to soar to 8,000 daily by March.

Health think-tank group Galen Centre for Health and Social Policy chief executive Azrul Mohd Khalib said such a move is necessary considering the increase in the number of Malaysians getting tested daily.

“The cost price is reportedly in the range of RM40 to RM90, depending on the volume of tests conducted. The more people who get tested, the lower the cost can be,” he told theSun yesterday.

Azrul said while there is no need for price standardisation for Covid testing, there should be a ceiling price to prevent profiteering.

“Based on market rates, it should be no more than RM120.”

Last September, the World Health Organisation reported that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, reported to be the largest private foundation in the world, struck a deal with rapid diagnostic test producers Abbot and SD Bionsensor to cap the price of antigen rapid diagnostic tests at US$5 each (about RM20.20).

The agreement was made for low and middle income countries that do not have extensive laboratory facilities or trained health workers.

While Malaysia does not fall into that category, there have been several initiatives to alleviate the burden on the public.

Bukit Gasing state assemblyman Rajiv Rishyakaran recently announced that the RTK-Antigen Covid-19 test was available at RM70 in his constituency, while health expert Dr Musa Nordin said the Selangor state government was setting aside RM5 million for free testing.

Rajiv said his initiative was being done at cost price without any subsidy, adding that since the announcement on Jan 18, some 200 people have been tested daily.

On whether private healthcare institutions should offer testing at a reasonable price for the public, Azrul said it was just business to them.

“Private hospitals and clinics are at the fundamental level of (doing) business. They have employees, operating costs, commitments and liabilities to pay. They are not part of the welfare system, although they can be mobilised to help out. Private clinics, in particular, are especially vulnerable during this public health crisis as they see a drastic decrease in patients,” he said.

The Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) said the cost for screenings are determined by market forces.

“There are 800 clinics and 100 hospitals providing Covid screening services. However, consumers should practise due diligence, especially if the price varies greatly from the market rate,” said MMA president Prof Datuk Dr M. Subramaniam.

He added that the public should also go only to facilities approved by the Health Ministry for swab tests.

“The Health director-general had on Nov 8 last year said that Covid testing by private sectors can only be carried out at a private medical clinic, ambulatory care centre or a private hospital.”

Several countries have embarked on affordable and free Covid screenings.

Germany secured nine million antigen test kits that can deliver results in minutes and cost 5 Euros (RM24.60), while France adopted a free-for-everyone testing policy.

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