The mayor of Paphos has hit out at private companies making a profit while charging what he called inflated prices for coronavirus and antibody testing and he urged the government to issue a decree capping the price of private testing.
“In a time of crisis and emergency in society and the economy, it is unthinkable for some to take advantage of situations to make a profit,” Phedonas Phedonos, said in a statement on Friday.
He added that if the Cyprus government pays for 20,000 SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) molecular detection tests with the current prices of €100 to €150 each, which are the prices charged by private laboratories and the Institute of Neurology and Genetics, that means the state should pay the amount of approximately €2.5 million.
Based on his findings, the cost of such tests should be around €50 each, he said.
“The charges of €100-€150 in my opinion are ‘black market’ prices,” he said.
Some 771 people were tested for coronavirus in Paphos commencing last Saturday until Tuesday and included the mayor, 11 municipality staff and two volunteers, all of whom were involved in testing other people during the weekend.
It took him only a few days to investigate and communicate with people in the industry, he said, as well as drawing on his experience of recent sampling in Paphos to find out a number of facts that supported his view.
Breaking down the overall costs of the tests, the mayor noted that consumables for collecting a clinical sample cost €6-€7, genetic isolation (RNA) consumables cost €9-€10 and consumables for performing SARS-CoV-2 (Real Time PCR) molecular virus detection cost €20-€22.
He added that staff costs for mass sampling and transport of samples to central laboratories in Nicosia cost approximately €2 per test. Laboratory staff performing the test account for approximately €3 per test and consumables are purchased by companies and /or laboratories with 19 per cent VAT, and the companies that carry out these tests charge 5 per cent VAT to their customers.
A reasonable profit for a company or laboratory can be considered in times of crisis and pandemic a percentage of 10-20 per cent, he said.
“The companies and laboratories that happened to have the equipment to the order of €75,000, are in no way justified to attempt to depreciate the purchase cost of their machinery-equipment, which they have already purchased and own without regard to the pandemic, and the decision to conduct mass tests,” he noted.
The argument of, “let’s see what the Institute of Neurology and Genetics or other countries charge” can’t be a pretext, he added, nor can it be mentioned as an argument in times of pandemic and special circumstances.
“The money that the state will pay is unfair and provocative that it will go into the pockets of some.”
There is an immediate obligation to set testing prices by decree, he stressed.