Cameroonians Kick As Gov’t Imposes Levy For PCR Test

Public condemnation has greeted the decision by the Cameroon Government to impose levy to run COVID-19 test which has been free before now.

Public condemnation has greeted the decision by the Cameroon Government to impose levy to run COVID-19 test which has been free before now.

Ferdinand Ngoh Ngoh, Secretary General at the Presidency of Cameroon, had addressed a letter to Seraphin Magloire Fouda, the Secretary General in the Prime Minister’s Office, on Wednesday, April 6, announcing that President Paul Biya, had decided that the Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) tests for COVID-19 which were hitherto carried out free of charge would henceforth cost 30,000 FCFA (about 60 US dollars).

The presidential instruction was made public a day before an announcement by Dr Malaouda Malachie, the Minister of Public Health, on Thursday April 7, that since the beginning of the month of April, no new COVID-19 cases had been recorded throughout the country.

But the decision by the government to impose a levy has generated reactions from the citizens and civil society groups lamenting the decision revealed a disconnect between the government and people.

“This bungling by the government is a clear indication that there is an almost complete disconnect between the Biya regime and the Cameroonian masses,” said Adolphus Mundenge, a political scientist based in Douala, the country’s economic capital.

“Even when the PCR tests were free of charge, there was not that much of an affluence among the people to go for them. This big fee imposed on the tests and at a time when the government is virtually signalling the end of the COVID-19 pandemic is tantamount to prohibiting the populations from taking the tests.”

The Government cited budgetary constraints as the reason for its decision to impose such a fat fee on the PCR tests.

“In view of the persistence of the COVID-19 pandemic and the budgetary constraints therefrom, I have the honour to pass on to you the high instructions of Mr. President of the Republic prescribing that PCR tests against Covid-19 henceforth be paid for at a rate of thirty thousand FCFA,” the letter from Ngoh Ngoh reads in part.

The letter revealed that a mechanism to secure the payments for the PCR tests would be instituted in concert with the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Public Health “with a view to ensure the traceability of the resources generated by this measure”.

Though it is almost certain that hardly any ordinary Cameroonian would go for the test now, the fact that it is obligatory for travellers into and from the country, it would still find adherents within the ambulatory fraternity in the country.

“They are just creating a new source of revenue for them to steal from. They insult the mentality of Cameroonians by mentioning the creation of a committee to ensure the traceability of the funds generated from the PCR tests,” said an angry citizen who declined to give his name.

“What have they done to the people in whose pockets billions of COVID-19 FCFA were traced and reported to parliament? Has even one of them been arrested and made to account for the money to date?”

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Chief Bisong Etahoben

Chief Bisong Etahoben is a Cameroonian investigative journalist and traditional ruler. He writes for international media and has participated in several transnational investigations. Etahoben won the first-ever Cameroon Investigative Journalist Award in 1992. He serves as a member of a number of international investigative journalism professional bodies including the Forum for African Investigative Reporters (FAIR). He is HumAngle's Francophone and Central Africa editor.

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