New Ksh 13,000 Covid-19 Test Sparks Controversy

  • Medics conducting random screening for Covid-19 symptoms at National Archives, Nairobi on Saturday, March 21, 2020
    Medics conducting random screening for Covid-19 symptoms at National Archives, Nairobi on Saturday, March 21, 2020
    File
  • A newly-unveiled Coronavirus (Covid-19) testing kit worth Ksh 13,000 has sparked controversy over its price point and whether or not it is authorised by the Ministry of Health (MoH).

    The testing kit, which employs drive-through sampling collection, was unveiled by Lancet Kenya and is available at their laboratories in Upper Hill and Parklands in Nairobi as well as Biashara Building in Mombasa. The company was, however, forced to come out on Sunday, March 29, to dispel reports that the government had not authorized use of the testing kit.

    "I’m unaware of this directive mentioned by a publication by Nation Media Group [sic] as coming from the CS Health as it is neither mentioned in his live presser today nor in his press statement. Perhaps the publication can share the source," tweeted Lancet Managing Director, Ahmed Kelebi.

    Kenyans.co.ke on Sunday, March 29, reached out to Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe seeking clarification on the matter with opinion split over the kit.

    Health CS Mutahi Kagwe launches the Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH) Diagnostic and Reporting Centre, Nairobi in February 2020 as Health CAS Dr Mercy Mwangangi (behind) watches
    Health CS Mutahi Kagwe launches the Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH) Diagnostic and Reporting Centre, Nairobi in February 2020 as Health CAS Dr Mercy Mwangangi (behind) watches
    File

    "You know we cannot respond to every single thing that happens online. But we will have a press conference at 2:00 pm. where we will address those things, including the issue of the authorized testing kits," he asserted.

    The samples taken by Lancet are collected using nasal and oral (throat) swabs before being sent to South Africa for analysis.

    Kelebi, however, disclosed that they were in the process of setting up a local testing center at their main facility in Nairobi that is expected to significantly reduce the cost from Ksh 13,000.

    “We are at an advanced stage of setting up the test in our main lab in Nairobi — just waiting for the kits to arrive anytime end of this week, and will be rolling out local testing with a capacity to scale-up. When we start local testing the cost will come down by almost half,” he disclosed.

    He further revealed that they had been sharing all Covid-19 test results from their labs with the MoH.

    Responding to those who questioned the price which they deemed too expensive, Kelebi maintained that while the health ministry offered free testing to those suspected to be infected, they offered their services to individuals who were able to pay after being referred by their physicians.

    "MoH provides free testing for those who meet case-definition to be tested free. Our private lab offers testing to those who are referred by their doctors based on clinical indication and are able to pay.

    "Unfortunately PCR is an expensive test due to the cost of reagents & equipment," he explained.

    So far, 38 cases of Covid-19 have been confirmed in the country as well as one recovery and one fatality.

    Thousands, however, remain in quarantine as the country looks to ramp up its testing capacity.

    Among plans being implemented is the establishment of a testing centre at the Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital (MTRH) in Eldoret, Uasin Gishu County.

    Expected to be operational by Monday, April 6, it will become the first Covid-19 testing centre in Kenya located outside Nairobi.

    A photo of Lancet Kenya Managing Director Ahmed Kelebi
    Lancet Kenya Managing Director Ahmed Kelebi
    Daily Nation