BY PHYLLIS MBANJE
ZIMBABWE has been adjudged among top 10 African countries with the highest number of COVID-19-related deaths even though the country has the least number of cumulative cases.
A recent World Health Organisation (WHO) COVID-19 Africa update stated that Zimbabwe and nine other African countries had in total recorded 3 000 coronavirus
Further analysis of figures shows that the nine countries recorded between 160 000 to over two million cases of COVID-19, while Zimbabwe only has 97 894 cases to date.
Botswana, which has almost the same number of infections (97 657), has fewer deaths (1 375), raising questions about limited testing in Zimbabwe, resulting in cases not being captured.
Health and Child Care ministry updates state that slightly over one million tests were carried out since the first case was recorded in March last year.
“Few tests (per 100 people) compared to those countries is the main reason. Late presentation and shortage of high dependency unit/intensive care unit beds could also be a contributory factors,” health practitioner Norman Matara said during training of nurses in Makonde district which was facilitated by the Zimbabwe Association of
Doctors for Human Rights.
Matara said there was need for mass testing, isolation and contact-tracing to halt further spread of the virus.
Zimbabwe has been touted as one of the countries that had managing well the pandemic and running a successful vaccination programme, despite fears by some healthcare workers that most of the cases were going unrecorded.
It costs an average of US$50 to get a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test.
Community Health Working Group executive director Itai Rusike said: “Testing is the cornerstone of public health prevention and planning. Zimbabwe has struggled to test in sufficient numbers to control COVID-19. Therefore, a large number of cases are not accounted for,” Rusike said, adding that almost two years into the pandemic, the need and demand for essential diagnostics (tests and reagents) was not being met.
Researchers from Columbia University in a paper published on Researchgate said the recent surge in COVID-19 cases in Zimbabwe was an urgent national public health concern, which required co-ordinated efforts to scale up testing using the capacity already in existence in country.
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