Local firms groan under burden of Covid testing costs

By Song Minh   September 21, 2021 | 05:07 pm PT
Local firms groan under burden of Covid testing costs
Sample collected from a driver in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo by Quynh Tran
Allow self-testing, many firms are saying after finding Covid-19 tests, which account for 70-80 percent of pandemic prevention costs, a significant financial burden.

Nguyen Minh Trang, director of transportation firm Delta, said drivers have to get tested once every two days to meet the requirements of many localities.

The cost of a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test for a pooled sample is VND200,000 ($8.78) per person, and that for a single test is VND700,000-800,000 per sample, depending on each medical facility.

This firm spends VND300 million for PCR testing for nearly 150 drivers per month. The cost doubles with long routes running for 4-5 days.

"Businesses will be less burdened if they can test themselves for the virus," Trang said.

Hanh Phuc, a woodworks company in Dong Nai Province, has kept workers on site since July to keep production going. It has maintained production with 300 workers instead of the usual 650.

"In less than two months, we’ve had to do 1,600 tests for 300 workers. On average, each person has to be tested three times a month," said Le Xuan Tan, a director of the company.

Similarly, the My Lan Group in Tra Vinh conducts PCR testing for 350 employees at a weekly cost of VND60 million, or VND240 million per month.

That is a significant number that affects businesses, said group chairman Nguyen Thanh My. The cost of testing plus the damage caused by halting production to do the tests are inflicting great losses, he added.

The different requirements for Covid tests have also hindered transport businesses.

For example, out-of-province drivers importing and exporting goods from China at the Mong Cai international border gate in Quang Ninh Province have to be tested three times – two PCR tests and one rapid antigen test.

After delivering the goods at the border gate, the drivers must stay until the next day before leaving because he has to wait for the test results.

Le Duy Hiep, chairman of the Vietnam Logistics Business Association, said that this creates huge costs for businesses because the driver's vehicle and goods have to be stored at the border gate.

The government has issued a resolution allowing enterprises to self-test for Covid-19, but the Ministry of Health has not provided any instruction for businesses on this issue.

Transport firm Delta’s general director Tran Duc Nghia said self-testing for Covid will help businesses save 70 percent of testing costs.

Businesses believe that they can save money by purchasing lower-priced testing equipment. A senior manager of a company in Vinh Phuc said they have received a lot of offers for quick test kits and testing services from medical equipment suppliers at just one-third or half the prices charged by medical establishments.

While waiting for guidance from the health ministry, businesses are actively looking for ways to reduce this cost.

The My Lan Group divides workers into teams of 28 people each. The company will test one representative of each team instead of a whole group everyday, because if one person in the group is infected, the whole group is deemed infected.

Thus, the cost of testing is reduced to VND72.8 million a month with a 90 percent chance of detecting infections.

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