The Primary Health Care Corporation (PHCC) announced it would halt PCR swab tests for travellers, sparking backlash online.
The cost of Covid-19 swab tests at private healthcare clinics has been heavily criticised by residents in Qatar since authorities announced no tests for travel purposes will be offered at PHCC’s on Sunday.
The move was met with disapproval online with many saying it lays a financial burden on families and those with low income. In Qatar, the average cost of a PCR test at private centres vary between 400 and 500 Qatari riyals.
“400QR for PCR Test at private medical facilities is a bit high. A Common person or Normal family can’t afford it. Please Consider,” one Twitter user said.
PCR rates at pvt clinic overboard compared to worldwide. Most low income group cannot afford it. The pvt clinics will make a good kitty with this move. Hope the rate is lowered as life is already affected.
— sudhirjc (@sudhirjc2020) April 4, 2021
Another tweet said rates are too high for labourers, suggesting the “rate should be unified” to be more considerate of Qatar’s various communities, including labourers. “The current rate is too high,” the disappointed resident said.
Meanwhile, others said the costs were too high in comparison to other GCC countries.
“Such a rip off! Day light extortion is being done by private hospitals. They know Expats want to travel out of Qatar & they are exploiting the situation- 500QAR for a PCR Test! UAE charges 50+ DHS for a PCR Test.. Inconsiderate & unthoughtful,” another person said.
“PCR rates at pvt clinic overboard compared to worldwide. Most low income group cannot afford it. The pvt clinics will make a good kitty with this move. Hope the rate is lowered as life is already affected,” another user said on Twitter.
On Sunday, health authorities said PHCC health centres will no longer be conducting PCR tests for travellers in a move designed to alleviate pressure amid an increase in Covid-19 cases.
This is temporary and will be reviewed once the pressure is eased, Dr. Nasser Ali Al Ansari, Consulted Microbiologist and Chair of Infection Control in Al Wakra said, directing those wishing to get tested for travel purposes towards private health clinics.
This was echoed by Executive Director of Operations at PHCC Dr. Samya Al Abdulla said “when the second wave is suppressed and pressure is eased on our healthcare teams, we will recommence this important service at our health centres.”
Qatar, which has maintained the world’s lowest coronavirus mortality rate, has been recording more weekly deaths as the UK strain continues to spread in the Gulf state.
Read also: PHCC halts Covid-19 PCR tests for travellers
On Sunday, Qatar recorded 876 positive new cases, bumping the total number of active infections up to 17,169. Just a day earlier, the Covid-19 death toll surpassed 300.
According to official health ministry figures, eight people died from the novel coronavirus in December. The number decreased to three in January before shooting up to 10 in February, including an 11-year-old child. In March, 33 people succumbed to the virus.
This has led authorities to announce a resumption of stricter precautionary measures with the aim to curb the virus.
On Sunday, state news agency reported that private healthcare workers will be freed up from their day-to-day roles and reassigned to Covid-19 support duties at Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) and Primary Health Care Corporation (PHCC) to help frontliners deal with the second wave.
Dr. Abdulla said the moves are designed to “ensure we prioritise our resources on providing services for people with Covid-19 and for those being vaccinated as well as continue to provide essential primary care services and walk in urgent care in our health centres.”
Stricter policies are also being imposed at health facilities in efforts to further ensure the safety of patients, visitors and healthcare staff.
Meanwhile, health authorities are continuing efforts to speed up and expand the nationwide vaccination campaign with aims to inoculate 90% of the population by the end of this year.