THE GOVERNMENT has a made a quick U-turn on its order requiring companies to ensure all their workers are tested for coronavirus first before they can resume work, after facing some resistance.
BY BLESSED MHLANGA
On Tuesday, a Cabinet meeting resolved to allow workers to return to work without having to be tested for the novel coronavirus.
“It has since transpired that companies are experiencing difficulties in accessing the Rapid Results test kits for testing their employees.
“In order to facilitate companies in the commercial and industrial sectors opening in terms of the relaxation pronounced under SI 99 of 2020, government has decided that, pending companies acquiring the required test kits to test their employees, companies will be permitted to open subject to the following conditions being met in relation to their employees,” reads part of cabinet decision matrix.
Before the U-turn, President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government introduced Statutory Instrument 99 of 2020, requiring all companies in the commercial and industrial sectors opening for the first time following the lockdown to have all their employees tested for COVID-19 using the Rapid Results test.
Instead, companies are now supposed to ensure that they conduct “temperature tests upon entering work premises, issue hand sanitizers upon entry to sanitise their hands, that each employee wears a face mask in appropriate form and employees to practice social distancing in the workplace,” the Cabinet resolved.
Businesses, led by Employers Confederation of Zimbabwe (EMCOZ) president, Israel Murefu, had said the government had set an unrealistic task for business and they pushed for a rethink, triggering the U-turn.
“If you look at the capacity the national response has managed in more than 30 days to do just 9 000 tests, yet the government expects in just 14 days for companies to have tested over a million workers, it’s just not practical or feasible,” he said.
Murefu said they could also not meet the cost of the tests at private laboratories particularly since most companies have not been operating for the past two months.
“The cheapest quotation for tests is USD$25 and the most expensive is USD$100 now for most companies that have not been operating there would be no budget for this, while the idea is noble and business is sympathetic and would want to ensure employees and their families are safe, the cost is just beyond reach, unless government proposes to include the cost of testing in the $18 billion stimulus package they are proposing,” Murefu said.
So far the government has not covered itself in glory in accounting for testing, regularly producing questionable and wrong results.
The government set a target of 40,000 tests for April, but fell woefully short, as less than a quarter of that number of people were tested.
Following the U-turn, it is not clear if the government will once again lean on companies to carry out tests in the future.