THREE nurses in Mashonaland East province who recently tested positive for COVID-19, returned negative results, casting doubt over the accuracy of test kits used in the country as well as validity of statistics already publicised.
BY JAIROS SAUNYAMA
Two of the nurses are stationed at Mt St Mary’s Hospital in Wedza while the third works at Ruwa Rehabilitation Centre. This is according to a report produced by provincial medical director Simukai Zizhou on March 26.
NewsDay understands that the health workers tested positive with the rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs) and were immediately self-isolated before a second examination using polymerase chain reaction (PCR) produced negative results.
Provincial medical director Simukai Zizhou yesterday confirmed the development, saying the three nurses were now certified COVID-19 free.
“The three were confirmed negative of the COVID-19 virus after the PCR tests. The RDT (test) is not specific,” Zizhou said.
“It can pick some antibodies which at times are not infected by COVID-19. This RDT can only pick antibodies after a period of 14 to 21 days after infection. It is not really a good test. This is why we waited for PCR confirmation and confirm with the virus’ RNA (ribonucleic acid). These cases turned out to be negative; they have no COVID-19 virus.”
The latest development has left more questions than answers on the authenticity of COVID-19 tests being conducted across the country.
Zimbabwe now has 31 COVID-19 confirmed cases including four deaths, the latest being the 82-year-old mother of former minister Sylvester Nguni who died of the deadly virus last week, triggering mass testing in Chitemere village, Mhondoro where she lived.
Two people who had contact with her have tested positive, according to Information permanent secretary Ndavaningi Mangwana.
Concerns have been raised that some of the test kits being used by the government to test for the coronavirus were defective.
Most of the COVID-19 test kits donated by Chinese billionaire, Jack Ma, are said to be causing headaches for health authorities as they are producing wrong results.
Last month, the Spanish government, among other countries, withdrew 58 000 Chinese-made coronavirus test kits, claiming they had an accurate detection rate of just 30%.
China, however, claimed the test kits were made by a company that did not appear on its list of authorised manufacturers.
At the weekend, Mangwana said government had banned the use of test kits other than the ones approved by the Health ministry.
“I am not aware of any particular case where there have been false or wrong results from PCR machines that are used in all instances where government is involved,” Mangwana said.
“Government has taken a position to say that test kits that are certified (by the ministry) are the ones that will be used. If there are others that are continuously giving false positives, then it is indeed a cause for concern.”
Mashonaland East was one of the first provinces to record COVID-19 cases after four people in Zimre Park tested positive. The four, who are members of the same family, have since recovered from the virus.
In a related development, government has expressed concern over the sprouting of private facilities operating as COVID-19 clinics.
Health ministry permanent secretary Agnes Mahomva said the private facilities were operating illegally without conforming to the Public Health Act standards.
“The ministry has learned and noticed that some private facilities that have not been officially assessed and registered are springing up as COVID-19 clinics,” Mahonva said in a statement.
“These facilities are operating illegally, are a danger to the COVID-19 patients and communities around them and should stop operating with immediate effect until they have completed all registration processes.”
She added: “Since COVID-19 is an infectious disease that was declared a formidable epidemic disease, any private facility intending to manage the COVID-19 disease (including testing, isolation and treatment) should duly apply to the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Health and Child Care for assessment, approval and registration in line with the Public Health Act provisions.”