Mega entertainer Somizi Mhlongo has expressed shock at the cost of testing for coronavirus (COVID-19) at a private hospital he visited in Johannesburg on Monday.
In a video on Instagram, he said decided to go for the test after experiencing a cough. When he asked how much it would cost, he was told R4,500.
Somizi said, “That broke my heart. I asked, ‘What happens to people who can’t afford it? What does this mean for people who either have no clinics around or can’t afford?'”
Mobile clinics, free tests
He continued, “Why is it so expensive to test for something that is an epidemic and a national crisis? I feel something needs to be done about that.
“Shouldn’t there be like, mobile clinics and stuff where it’s either done at a very affordable price or for free? I think this is where the Department of Health or the Presidency need to really step in and do something about it.”
The hugely popular Idols SA judge said in his view, people should not pay to be tested “for something like this.”
Somizi’s views were echoed by many of the more than 1,400 fans who commented on his video, including fellow celebrities Bontle Modiselle and Judith Sephuma.
Private tests ‘have to be verified’
During a briefing with Parliament’s portfolio committee on health earlier this month, Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize said coronavirus tests are primarily a state function carried out by public institutions.
At a media briefing in Polokwane last week, Mkhize also said results from both public and private hospitals have to be verified by the National Health Laboratory Service (NHLS) and the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD).
He said, “The approach is, for the results to be finalised, whether the individual would have done them at a private hospital, at a private laboratory or public, it has to be verified through the NHLS and NICD.”
His comments followed the misdiagnosis of an individual in the Free State province whose positive diagnosis was withdrawn after further tests.
As of Monday, South Africa had a total of 62 confirmed cases of coronavirus. Mkhize indicated during a media briefing more possible cases were being verified.
President Cyril Ramaphosa announced a series of measures on Sunday to help curb the spread of the virus, including travel bans and closure of 37 land and sea ports of entry.