Byo suspends COVID-19 testing

THE two centres designated to conduct COVID-19 tests in Bulawayo have reportedly suspended operations owing to lack of consumables amid reports there is a backlog of over 700 untested cases in the city.

By NQOBANI NDLOVU

These are Mpilo Hospital’s national tuberculosis reference laboratory and the applied genetic testing centre (AGTC) at National University of Science and Technology (Nust).

The ATGC yesterday blamed the government for failing to supply consumables to allow COVID-19 testing to continue in the city, with the Nust centre also expressing frustration that they were forced to “subsidise” the State.

This was revealed by AGTC director Zephania Dhlamini yesterday when Higher and Tertiary Education deputy minister Raymond Machingura toured the university’s anti-COVID-19 projects.
“If you go to Mpilo now, there is no testing happening because the supplies are not there. It is a sad development,” Dhlamini said.

He said the institution had been using its own resources and its testing equipment after moving to Mpilo last month for COVID-19 testing.

“We got to Mpilo and all we received (at the time) were donated polymerase chain reaction (PCR) kits and nothing else in terms of consumables. So we kept on lending them, cannibalising from our lab pipettes, micro-centrifuge tubes, microtiter plates yet not getting the support that we need from the Health ministry,” Dhlamini said.

He added: “We are saying we can no longer continue subsiding this COVID-19 testing.”
Health minister Obadiah Moyo could not be reached for comment.

Bulawayo currently has 12 confirmed cases out of 37 reported across the country.

A Bulawayo citizens-led initiative, Citizens COVID-19, yesterday accused the government of frustrating efforts to fight the scourge at a local level.

“We still need to conduct far more tests than we are doing to get a better and more accurate picture of the state of the coronavirus pandemic in the country,” said Citizens COVID-19 spokesperson Effie Ncube.

“What we have done so far is totally inadequate to form a basis from which a conclusion of trusted figures can be drawn. Our data remains too narrow and limited. Our statistics are misleading, unreliable and woefully inadequate.”

Chief co-ordinator of the national response to the COVID-19 pandemic in President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s office, Agnes Mahomva, was not picking calls, while Health ministry epidemiology and disease control director Portia Manangazira said she was attending a
meeting.

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