THE recent case in which five people in Bulawayo tested positive for coronavirus (COVID-19) must be a wake-up call for the nation, and the government in particular, that we really need to scale up our testing if we are to successfully fight off this virus that has wreaked havoc across the globe, accounting for thousands of deaths.
With the total number of COVID-19 cases rising to 23 across the country, with Bulawayo accounting for the highest number of cases at five — whose samples were tested at the National TB Reference Laboratory at Mpilo Central Hospital — even the target of 1 000 tests a day becomes too little.
While it is understandable that we may be short in resources to be able to test as many as we must, 1 000 tests remains too little a number if we are to successfully ward off this pandemic way before it starts causing havoc as it has done elsewhere. We reiterate that we still have a chance to successfully fight off this pandemic, but only if we play our cards right.
The potential risk that this virus poses is too ghastly to contemplate. And that alone should compel us as a nation to go beyond talk and begin to take the necessary practical steps, at a scale that will enable us to ensure that all cases are quickly detected, quarantined and treated before the virus spreads too far.
Countries that approached this outbreak with kid gloves at the beginning ended up paying too high a price because they never imagined that the virus would spread at such a rate as they had not realised it had already been deeply embedded in their populations, while the few infected were not quickly treated, but were free to interact with as many people as possible within their circles of contact.
Zimbabwe may have recorded only three deaths linked to COVID-19, but that is not a reason to sit back on our laurels and think we are safe.
This must be taken as an opportunity to actually increase the number of tests and test as many people as possible in the shortest time. Without this radical approach, we many as well be sitting on a time bomb.
Given the ailing nature of our health delivery system and our fragile economy, this is a luxury we cannot afford.
We, therefore, implore the powers-that-be to increase their concentration and focus on ensuring that the cases we are slowly detecting do not end up as a bonfire that will consume the nation. Let us utilise the fighting chance that we still have by nipping the flu bug in the bud.