FREE COVID-19 TESTING TO END
Taken from this week's issue
COVID-19 screening tests carried out by the Health Ministry will have to be paid for, regardless of whether people are vaccinated or not, as of Wednesday, September 1, Prime Minister Ersan Saner has confirmed.
Only PCR and antigen tests for students in primary and secondary schools and citizens receiving social assistance will be free of charge, Mr Saner said during a press briefing on Thursday evening held following a backlash from the public.
The decision to charge vaccinated people for tests, which first emerged in the Official Gazette on Thursday, sparked uproar after Mr Saner had previously said that, in a bid to encourage more people to get jabbed, only those who have not been inoculated would be made to pay, with a charge of 100TL for a PCR test and 40TL for an antigen test.
According to the latest Health Ministry figures, nearly 2.4 million Covid-19 tests have been conducted in the TRNC, with almost 16,000 positive cases detected so far and 52 deaths as of August 26.
Yesterday furious Health Minister Ünal Üstel vowed to reverse the decision. At the time Cyprus Today went to press there had been no U-turn in the charging policy.
Mr Üstel accused the Finance Minister Dursun Oğuz of proposing the fees-for-all move during a Council of Ministers meeting that he was absent from because he was abroad.
In its response to the decision, the main opposition Republican Turkish Party (CTP) said in a written statement that health services are being dragged into “serious chaos” because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Detection and early isolation of positive cases is essential in the fight against the pandemic, which can only be possible with widespread testing,” the CTP said.
“The decisions taken by the minority government . . . will lead to people who don’t have the means to avoid testing and the pandemic to spiral out of control even further.
“During these days when the economic crisis has deepened, the decision to do paid testing will further weaken our power to fight the pandemic.”
The statement added: “Just saying ‘get vaccinated’ isn’t enough. The organising of ‘vaccination campaigns’ where people can seek advice and get vaccinated has been seriously neglected.
“Moreover, our people are having great difficulty in finding out where and when they can get which vaccine.”
People’s Party (HP) MP Jale Refik Rogers said that forcing people to pay for PCR and antigen tests poses a “threat” to public health.
“If you look at the Council of Ministers’ decision, the reason is public finance but the issue they ignore is that if they insist on mismanaging this pandemic under the pretext of the economy, this mismanagement will increase the risk of shutdown and they will cause us all to lose as a country in terms of both health and the economy,” she said.
Fellow HP MP Ayşegül Baybars accused the government of “short-sightedness”.
The Cyprus Turkish Chamber of Industry (KTSO) called for the decision to be “urgently reviewed”.
Emphasising that “neither families nor businesses” can financially cope with paid testing, the KTSO said: “This may be seen like a plus in terms of the state budget, but it’s obvious that the chaos it will create will lead to greater costs.”