Economy

Airlines lobby decries high cost of Covid test for visitors to Kenya

Travellers

A Kenya Airways ground crew checks-in passengers at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi, on August 1, 2020. PHOTO | AFP

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Summary

  • Airlines lobby says the high cost of Covid-19 test in Kenya hurts the growth of the aviation sector because it impedes tourists.
  • International Air Transport Association (IATA) has said $80 that Kenya charges for a single PCR test is way above the African average and urged the country to embrace the affordable antigen checks.
  • The Covid-19 test in Kenya is the most expensive in East Africa compared to the neighbouring countries such as Uganda, which charges $60 and Rwanda $50.

Airlines lobby says the high cost of Covid-19 test in Kenya hurts the growth of the aviation sector because it impedes tourists.

International Air Transport Association (IATA) has said $80 that Kenya charges for a single PCR test is way above the African average and urged the country to embrace the affordable antigen checks.

The Covid-19 test in Kenya is the most expensive in East Africa compared to the neighbouring countries such as Uganda, which charges $60 and Rwanda $50.

All visitors coming to Kenya are required to undergo a mandatory Covid-19 test before they are allowed into the country, with the high cost acting as a deterrent, especially to those who would want to travel for pleasure.

“Kenya’s air transport recovery is stalling and requires ongoing support. Among the interventions, we are urging Kenya’s government to reduce the cost of PCR tests for travellers, which, at roughly $80 each, is significantly higher than the average in Africa,” said Kamil Al Awadhi, IATA regional vice president for Africa and the Middle East.

“The high cost of tests has become a major deterrent and a drag on the recovery of Kenya’s air transport and tourism sectors.”

IATA says airlines passenger traffic to, from and within Kenya fell by 52 percent in June 2021 compared with June 2019.

“The picture was similar for the first half of 2021, with passenger volumes having declined by 54.2 percent as compared to the first half of 2019,” said the agency.

PCR is the most advanced of the three main Covid-19 tests, which reveals whether someone has the virus in the early stages of the infection.

The agency says expensive charges and inconsistent requirements for PCR tests undermine confidence in air travel, pointing out that affordable tests will prompt more people to travel by air again.

According to IATA’s latest passenger survey, 86 percent of respondents are willing to get tested. But 70 percent also believe that the cost of testing is a significant barrier to travel, while 78 percent believe governments should bear the cost of mandatory testing.

IATA says an alternative solution to the expensive PCR checks would be to allow more cost-effective antigen tests. The global aviation body said the next two years should see a stronger recovery as Kenya’s vaccination rate improves and more countries reopen their borders to Kenya.

The agency said before the outbreak of Covid-19, African Union’s Single African Air Transport Market was intended to unlock travel in the continent. But in post-pandemic it will provide an even more important economic boost.

It says full implementation the single air market in Africa would have significant economic benefits for Kenya, which include creating 39,000 new jobs and adding $201 million to the gross domestic product.