My grandfather—Kofi Tordzro of blessed memory once told me that “the sail would forever be a good friend to the wind, because they collaborate to move a canoe to its landing pier”. Likewise, a folkloric myth has it that, if one suddenly bears the thought of a strange pal, and he did not hear from that person within the day, then the thought-bearer must prepare for the worse news of that kinsman. It is in that spirit that I applaud Ghana’s “Minority Leader” Hon. Haruna Iddrisu’s call for the Government to review the Covid-testing policies and fees at the Country’s Airport—a laudable call that envisioned the tenets of this article in the draft room.
Indeed, if anything would invoke the saying that goes: “One man’s poison is another man’s delicacy”, nothing would adduce such maxim better than the glowing opportunity a section of Ghana’s business elites and their conglomerates had to convert the fatal Covid-19 pandemic into a fertile behemoth Hen that lays golden eggs at the Kotoka International Airport.
Since August 2020, the Ghana Airport Company Limited claimed it partnered with Frontier Healthcare Service Limited to render on-site mandatory Covid-testing services at the airport to all arriving passengers from age five and above at the cost of $150 for foreign passport holders and $50 for Ghanaians and ECOWAS Nationals. Ostensibly, the idea falls in line with the government's effort to “prevent” importation of Covid virus into the country. Although a plausible idea, many are those who believe in their guttural linings that, this transaction is covertly extortive, cunningly impious, morally unjustifiable and insensitive, discriminatory at implementation and globally xenophobic in nature. Besides, the activities of Frontier at the airport are deemed as a concatenated syndicate of corruption at the tip of an Elephant’s tusk and deeply imbedded in its husk.
In view of the impact of this clandestine transaction on travelers—especially foreign passport holders across the globe, this author representing uncountable thousands, wish to echo the voice of the “Minority Leader” to Government and further petition all foreign Embassies in Ghana and other World Leaders to urgently call for immediate review or abrogation of the astronomical mandatory Covid-testing charges based on the following factual observations:
Xenophobic and corruption
In September 2021, I traveled from Germany via Amsterdam to Ghana and duly paid the $150. Upon arrival, we were packed at a narrow corridor pending verification formalities before swabbing. The weather was very hot and the standing A/C units were not operative. We queued under the banner of “Covid prevention” but without Covid preventive measures in place since there was nothing like 6-feet social distancing in that lineal hallway that day. Readers should take special note that, it was the same rapid testing kits that costs about $10 that were used for both Ghana passport holders and the foreigners. Why then should the foreigner get charged thrice the fee of a Ghanaian? Even considering operational costs and profit margin, the whooping $150 charge defeats the purpose of Covid fighting and relocates the process to a comfortable zone of “extortion”, when Ghana is not isolated from the rest of the world and certainly not a virgin to the Corona virus!
On my return, the story was different. All travelers boarded KLM flight with negative PCR tests from Ghana. At Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam, there was neither Covid questionnaire nor mandatory Covid testing. But interestingly, the Netherland Authorities were issuing “BD Rapid Testing” Kits to interested travelers—at least two kits per traveler for FREE. When I arrived at Germany, I only filled health attestation form but there was no compulsory Covid-testing either. I checked from the US, and they do not require testing on arrival as well. In contrast, the UK requires all eligible travelers to pre-register for Day 2 and 8 Covid testing upon arrival but NOT at the airport. For convenience to travelers and avoidance of monopoly, the UK Government have a plethora of approved Covid testing vendors for travelers to choose their preference. Therefore, I ask again, why then must the Germans, Netherlands, Americans, South Africans, and other Nationals be charged astronomical $150 for a $10 kit; when most of these countries allow free passage to Ghanaians who arrived at their ports of entry?
Lack of Accountability and the Denials
Upon the frustrations that we endure either as “indigenous foreigners” or organic foreigners, we would have found solace knowing that the accruals from these seeming nefarious transactions were being accounted to the people and being used judiciously for their benefit. Rather, we felt heavy hearted to hear from even top Government officials—precisely the Health, Finance and National Security Ministers—denying knowledge of Frontiers Healthcare Service Limited’s operations at the airport, in the House of Parliament. Who then authorized Frontiers? Where are the monies going and how much is the country benefitting from the proceeds?
As mentioned above, upon these exorbitant charges, it will shock readers to know that even the systems or websites that run Frontier’s operations are not properly configured to handle transactions seamlessly. Just last week, I took a friend and the wife to the airport for Ghana flight. We tried paying the $150 fee under aimless vituperative protest, but the system kept rejecting the transactions repeatedly—from our respective mobile devices with valid debit/credit cards (see attached evidence). It took us more than two hours to complete the payment, fill the Health Declaration Form and complete another form online known as the “Global Haven Covid Result Validation”. Undeniably, Covid-19 pandemic had taken the fun out of global trotting but traveling to Ghana nowadays is worse than traveling to the “hell” that some religions describe. Obviously, it appears the effervescent thirst for money had defaced the warm hospitable arms of the Ghanaian “Akwaaba” symbols, the loving spirits of “Woezor” and the smiling faces of “Senu Dezua” we accord our visitors cheerfully!
Truthfully, I felt so shameful when Cathoel—an Australian-German expatriate I met on board, complained gravely about the process just like many other colleagues. I feel like the land of my birth had suddenly become a giant monetary glutton and descended into a deep xenophobic abyss to the detriment of her good global image. Since then, Cathoel’s wails kept ringing in my ears. Also, social media is flooded with similar distasteful and poignant accounts and the latest propellant for this article was the hefty frustrations I witnessed on the faces of Ghana-bound travelers last week at JFK Airport—including disabled elderly folks in wheeled-chairs with no English or cyber knowledge to complete the transactions.
Therefore, “Mr. President” on behalf of ALL dejected travelers to Ghana (in recent times), I hereby seconded the Honorable “Minority Leader’s” prudent call for you to either review or abolish the mandatory Covid-testing at Kotoka Airport to ease the suffering of Ghanaians and Ghana-loving travelers. Most importantly, in the wake of drastic decline in Covid-19 infections globally. World Leaders must unite to stop Ghana from exploiting their citizens now!
The BD test plate
A Pack of BD Rapid Covid Detection Kit issued at Schiphol Airport, Amsterdam
BD package issued at Schiphol Airport containing test slide and reagent