By Michelle Sutherland
The staggering cost of PCR test at Belize's borders points for persons who are traveling out of the country for more than 24 hours, and which are being administered by a private company has led many Belizeans to question the $100 bill, as well as the government's decision to give the green light to a private company instead of administering the test themselves.
In an effort to dig deeper into the situation The Reporter was able to confirm with top sources in the medical community that the previous Minister of Health and Wellness Michel Chebat had signed the contract with the private entity prior to demitting office. We were additionally told that while there are concerns about the staggering cost of the PCR test on Belizeans, the termination of the contract may lead to lawsuits that could potentially end up costing the government.
When we reached out to the Minister of Health and Wellness Hon. Kevin Bernard, he said, “A contract has existed which ends in June, and that is when we are going to really revisit this whole scenario. Hopefully, we may not even need to renew that contract at some point. But it is something that we are aware of, personally speaking, I really want to see some adjustment to that yes.”
In fact, according to the minister, he is also of the belief that the cost per PCR test for Belizeans is a bit too high and needs to be negotiated. In an effort to ease the blow on locals, Bernard confirmed that he will be meeting with the said company over the next couple of days in an effort to negotiate the terms of that contract and possibly to reduce the fees. While he indicated that he cannot preempt a precise figure, the minister promised that he will have a formal answer by early next week.
But while Bernard now finds himself trying to wiggle out of a binding contract with that private party, he also told us that the Ministry of Health and Wellness, at the time, could not have taken up the responsibility of providing PCR testing at the border crossings, because apart from being understaffed and overworked for the past two years, their resources and personnel have been stretched thin across the country.
In closing, Bernard said that while they are cognizant of the concerns among Belizeans, in two weeks' time amendments will be made to ease the restrictions at the borders. The ministry will be recommending that only persons who have stayed more than three days in any of the neighboring countries undergo a mandatory PCR test, at their expense, upon their return back to the country.