Saturday, January 22, 2022

South Africa competition watchdog forces Covid test price cuts

Ampath and Lancet Laboratories agreed to cut the test prices US$31 or less, following a complaint to the Competition Commission by regulator the Council for Medical Schemes.

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South Africa’s competition authority said on Sunday it had reached an agreement with the two biggest suppliers of Covid-19 PCR tests to slash their prices.

Ampath and Lancet Laboratories agreed to cut the test prices 500 rand (US$31, 27 euros) or less from around 850 rand, following a complaint to the Competition Commission by regulator the Council for Medical Schemes.

The commission upheld the complaint that as the cost of processing tests had fallen with huge increases in volumes and improved techniques, the labs had failed to pass these savings onto their customers.

“The price charged by the private pathology laboratories for Covid-19 PCR tests remained persistently high and unchanged,” Competition Commissioner Tembinkosi Bonakele told an online press conference.

Prices for Covid-19 tests vary around the world, from free to more than $100.

In January, the 16 member countries of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) decided to harmonise prices at US$50 in order to “facilitate travel” in the region.

Several countries, notably in Europe, which had implemented massive free testing policies, have recently ended them to encourage vaccination.

South Africa is officially the African country most affected by the virus. The country has seen an exponential rise in cases since the emergence of the Omicron variant and has had more than 3.1 million infections, including more than 90,000 deaths.

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