Last updated on October 30th, 2020; Published on August 17th, 2020

As Nigeria prepares to open her international borders, Airlines and Border Control may mandate a COVID-19 PCR test for travel. Travellers may be required to present a negative COVID-19 PCR test certificate before they are allowed to board their flights or even granted entry into certain countries. With the pandemic still ongoing, a negative test certificate, at the moment, is just as important as your passport and visa.

Considering how chaotic it is (or used to be) to get a yellow fever card certificate in Lagos, I was quite worried about the possibility and ease of getting a COVID-19 PCR test for travel. However, I recently went through the process and I’m glad to say that it was easy and straightforward, albeit, very expensive.

PS: The Nigerian Minister of Aviation has announced the resumption of international flights from the 5th of September, 2020.

covid-19 pcr test for travel

Because of a tight timeline and frankly, lack of good information about how to get tested, Mark and I opted to get tested at one of the private laboratories approved by the Lagos State Government. On the NCDC’s website, I saw that for someone to get tested, they needed to be showing symptoms of the COVID-19 virus. This, to me, means that you simply cannot walk into the facility or even book an appointment. Chances are that if you are seeking a COVID-19 PCR test for travel, you are either free of the virus or asymptomatic.

Apart from the vague information available about testing, there’s also the issue of timing. Many airlines require that the test be taken within 72 (or at most 96 hours) hours before the flight’s departure. Based on hearsay alone, the public test centres were not options for us.

Update: You can get a FREE test done at the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research (NIMR) centre in Yaba. Here’s a link to register for one.

Where to Get a Private COVID-19 PCR Test for Travel in Lagos

The Lagos State Government, in a bid to make testing more accessible, approved 7 private laboratories to conduct PCR COVID-19 tests for the general population as the country begins to open up. The private Covid-19 test centres in Lagos include;

  1. 54gene (Address: Victoria Island)
  2. Biologix Support Services (Address: Maryland)
  3. Clina-Lancet Laboratories (Address: Surulere, Victoria Island, Ikeja, TBS, Ebute-Metta)
  4. Medbury Medical Services (Address: Lekki, Ikeja)
  5. O2 Medical Services (Address: Gbagada)
  6. Synlab (Address: Lekki Phase 1, Ikeja, Victoria Island)
  7. Total Medical Services

Most of the laboratories have set up temporary testing centres around Lagos to manage sample collections. Some of them also offer services that come to you, if you meet the minimum requirement for the number of people who need to get tested.

Mark and I contacted two of the companies (54gene and Biologix Support Services) to schedule an appointment. Biologix was fully booked for the week we wanted to get tested in, but luckily, 54gene had availability.

How to Get a COVID-19 PCR Test in Lagos

How to Get a COVID-19 PCR Test for Travel in Lagos

As of this moment, you cannot simply walk into a private COVID-19 test centre in Lagos. Like I mentioned previously, some of these laboratories are utilizing temporary centres and they only provide the address to you after you have scheduled an appointment and paid for the service.

To schedule our appointment, we had to fill an online form and call the 54gene phone number listed on their website. Once they confirmed availability for the date we wanted to get tested on, they sent us details about how to make payments, and then their address after the payment was confirmed.

How Much Does a COVID-19 Test Cost in Lagos?

At the time of this writing, it costs โ‚ฆ50,400 to schedule a test. This fee is enforced by the Lagos State Government, so it is the same charge, regardless of which COVID-19 test centre in Lagos that you visit. I have to say though, that this price doesn’t make the tests more ‘accessible to the general population’. It is ridiculously high! I can only hope that we either no longer need it in the next few months or the tests become heavily subsidized and affordable to the average Nigerian.

Update: You can get a FREE test done at the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research (NIMR) centre in Yaba. Here’s a link to register for one.

Getting a COVID-19 PCR Test for Travel in Lagos – What to Expect

Are you crying or are your eyes just watering?

We arrived at the 54gene COVID-19 test centre ahead of our scheduled time and waited while the staff got ready to collect our samples. I have to admit that I expected to see some level of paranoia and obsessive cleaning and sanitization behaviours at the centre but everyone was pretty laidback. I’m not sure if laidback is the word I’m looking for though but yeah, it didn’t feel like a coronavirus war zone – which was good in a way, I guess.

Once they were ready to attend to us, we were asked to wash our hands and get seated at the data collection section of the building. All the chairs were set at a resonable distance away from each other.

Next, we had to fill and sign a registration and consent form. The forms included questions about personal details and travel history. This information was then used to create an account for us – where we could look up our test results once they become available and if they are negative. Apparently, the test centres are mandated to share positive COVID-19 test results with the Lagos State Government only.

Also, I think there’s a way to fill this form online but we weren’t aware of this before our visit. In order to save some time and of course, minimize contact with objects and other people, it may be better to inquire about this option if you plan to go for a test. In any case, the forms were short and quick to fill and we were able to register in about 5 minutes.

How Long Does a COVID-19 PCR Test Take?

After completing the registration process, we proceeded to an adjoining section of the building to have our samples taken. The process itself takes less than 5 minutes and basically, they stick a swab stick down your nostrils – both of them and down your throat too.

When I walked into the sample collection section after registration and saw Mark’s eyes, I had to ask. “Are you crying or are your eyes just watering?” Turned out that his eyes were just watering but the look he gave me told me everything I needed to know.

The lady collecting the sample told me that it wasn’t painful and that I would only feel a slight irritation. She lied. The irritation was not slight at all and yes, it was quite painful. She stuck the swab stick so deep into my nostrils, I had a brain freeze! Then she did the next one and then my mouth! Even as I type this, I still feel a little pain in my eyes, ears, nose and throat and I am still nursing a headache. It’s definitely not a test I’d want to repeat!

Our samples were labelled and we were told that we would get our results in 24-48 hours. After 36 hours, we were able to look up our test results online. Thankfully, we both tested Negative! From the website, we were able to print our certificate, which we presented to get on our flight.

covid_19_test_in_lagos

By the way, I know some of you are wondering why I wore my party dress and shoes to go get tested. No, they don’t share Jollof rice at the test centres. The dress was begging to be worn and the shoes were easy to slip on and off. I just felt I needed to explain this never-to-be-caught-unfresh moment and now that that’s out of the way, I’d love to hear from you!

If you have any questions about getting a COVID-19 PCR test for travel or the COVID-19 test centres in Lagos, leave them in the comment section below. Also, if you have gotten tested, let’s bond over our stories…

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