Red flag over Zim’s COVID-19 testing capacity

THE Zimbabwe Association for Doctors for Human Rights has raised concern over the country’s capacity to test individuals of the novel coronavirus, amid indications that of the more than 16 000 people who returned from different countries, only 200 have been tested for the virus.

By Moses Matenga

Over 16 000 people have returned to Zimbabwe in the last few weeks amid the COVID-19 pandemic and it emerged that no proper procedures were taken to ensure their safety and limit the possibility of spreading the virus.

Only 200 people have been tested according to the Ministry of Health and Child Care that has recorded eight infections and one death.

“Testing more people allows for early identification, isolation and treatment of COVID-19 and averts the possible catastrophic effects of community transmission. 

“To date, just under 200 tests have been done despite the over 16 032 returnees from countries with confirmed COVID-19 cases,” the doctors association said.

“On testing, the ZADHR notes with great concern the small number of COVID-19 diagnostic tests that have been conducted in Zimbabwe. 

“We urge the Zimbabwean government to urgently roll out a mass screening and testing programme during this 21-day lock down period and beyond.”

The association said testing more people will allow early identification, isolation and treatment of Covid-19 and averts the possible effects of community transmission.

“ZADHR calls upon the government to ensure that all returning residents into Zimbabwe are provided with State monitored isolation facilities where they are assessed for 14 days. 

“The current approach by the Ministry of Health and Child Care, where they encourage self-isolation for returning residents is porous, lacks monitoring, and is a potential avenue for COVID-19 importation into Zimbabwe.”

In South Africa returnees from different countries including China were forced into isolation and taken to a ranch set aside for that only to be released after they tested negative.

“The state must be proactive rather than reactive in ensuring COVID 19 cases are identified at the ports of entry as compared to picking symptomatic patients in the community.”

The ZADHR also expressed deep concern over the state of preparedness of the designated health care facilities for Covid -19 treatment.

“Despite assurances by the Minister of Health and Child Care that our health facilities were prepared to handle Covid-19 facilities, we received with shock reports that Wilkins Hospital has been closed for upgrades. 

“We also note that most isolation and treatment centres across the country are in a bad state, lack intensive care facilities and are not manned by intensivists who have the required experience to handle complicated Covid-19 cases.”

“We urge the government to ensure high levels of transparency in representation of the country’s state of preparedness by the health ministry and other government officials. 

“We also call upon the government to urgently address the concerns raised by government nurses and doctors on the absence of personal protective equipment (PPEs).”

So far, Zimbabwe has confirmed eight COVID-19 cases and one fatality.

Questions have been raised about Zimbabwe’s preparedness and there is scepticism over the figures that the government provides.

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