Monday 6 April 2020


IN A stunning development, it has emerged that some of the coronavirus testing kits that have been donated or brought into the country are defective, the Daily News on Sunday can report. 

The bombshell revelation — which comes as the global pandemic is escalating — raises serious questions about the accuracy of the total number of people in the country who are said to have so far tested positive for the lethal virus.

The coronavirus pandemic has so far killed about 60 000 people, in addition to infecting more than 1,1 million others around the world.

To date, Zimbabwe has only reported nine positive cases of the killer virus — as well as one fatality, that of prominent broadcaster Zororo Makamba.

Speaking in an interview with the Daily News on Sunday yesterday, Health and Child Care minister Obadiah Moyo confirmed that there were defective rapid testing kits in the country, forcing authorities to wait for the delivery of more reliable equipment.

“We received some kits which we are not using because we found that they were defective.
“We are, therefore, waiting to receive definitive testing kits because some of the rapid results testing kits we have give defective results.

“This way, one person can test negative when one is positive, and a positive person can test negative when that is not the case. So, those tests are not reliable,” Moyo said. 

“The only reliable testing that is taking place in the country is being carried by the government and not private hospitals. 

“As government, we are using the golden standard which is definitive, although this takes five hours for results to show.

“We hope to get more testing kits so that we come up with results early,” Moyo further told the Daily News on Sunday.

This comes as the government has taken a lot of flak for allegedly understating the number of people who have been infected by coronavirus.

It also comes as many health experts have argued that by now, the country should have seen a significant jump in positive cases — as the 14-day incubation period, being the time the virus takes before becoming fully blown, has long elapsed. 

Zimbabwe is currently under a 21-day lockdown that was imposed by President Emmerson Mnangagwa as a part of tough government measures aimed at combating the spread of the disease in the country.

Moyo also told the Daily News On Sunday yesterday that the government was hoping to decentralise the testing for coronavirus before authorities embarked on an aggressive door-to-door campaign that would be informed by the rate at which cases would be soaring.

“Our intention is to have door-to-door screening as soon as possible, but we currently don’t have the kits to enable us to roll out such an exercise.

“Once we secure those kits, we will be able to expand our testing capacity. Our plan is to decentralise the testing process. We want to ensure that we have testing capacity at each and every government hospital, in every province,” Moyo said. 

“We are in the process of decentralising the whole process. Currently, we have the kits for PCR (polymerase chain reaction) testing and the PCR is the definitive testing (it is used to detect early infections).

“However, while it was being done just in Harare, the ministry of Health has already entered an agreement with Nust (the National University of Science and Technology) so that their equipment can be used at Mpilo, where there is a level three laboratory. 

“After that, we will then increase the number of testing sites in Harare and then eventually go countrywide. This will be done in the shortest time possible,” Moyo told the Daily News on Sunday further.

“In exposed areas like Beitbridge, we are going to start with rapid testing.
“For rural areas like Gokwe, if a patient shows signs of the disease we have the rapid response team that is in every province and those teams will attend to any case.

“If the person is showing clinical signs of the disease, they will be taken to a hospital and then comprehensive tests will be carried out,” Moyo added. 

As of the end of last week, Zimbabwe had tested less than 400 people cumulatively, reporting nine positive cases and one death.

In contrast, regional power and Zimbabwe’s biggest trading partner, South Africa, had by yesterday recorded 1 505 cases of coronavirus — with nine people succumbing to the killer disease, and 95 others said to be recovering well from infections.
South Africa, which has also been applauded by the World Health Organisation (WHO) for the manner in which it is tackling Covid-19, is to conduct a comprehensive door-to-door testing exercise after deploying 10 000 field officers across its provinces. 

Although the country’s hitherto striking doctors and other health workers have since returned to work, they are still concerned by the government’s failure to quickly decentralise the testing, screening and isolation processes for coronavirus. 

Presently, only Harare has the laboratory that is conducting definitive testing for the lethal disease.
 The treasurer of the Zimbabwe Doctors for Human Rights (ZDHR), Norman Matara, told the Daily News on Sunday that the country was still not adequately prepared to contain coronavirus if its cases surged.

“As far as we are concerned, nothing has changed much in the health sector. We still have many challenges. Protective clothing has been delivered, but I am not sure if it will be enough if the situation demands heightened action. 

“As a country, we are not prepared at all. Thereare no isolation centres and provinces are still sending samples to Harare,” Matara said.

“What is more, we are still to have functional intensive care units,” he added.
 The issue of how ill-prepared Zimbabwe has been to effectively deal with Covid-19, was brought to the fore last month following the death of Makamba — after he apparently contracted the lethal virus in the United States of America (USA). Daily News


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