Anxiety Grows Over Zim Low COVID-19 Testing Capacity

ZIMBABWEANS are beginning to question the authenticity of COVID-19 results from the National Microbiology testing laboratory due to the low testing levels which most believe do not mirror the actual rate of infection on the ground.

By Michael Gwarisa `

Even though more than 16000 people have returned to Zimbabwe since the virus was reported early this year, only 329 tests have been done to date. Of the 329 COVID-19 tests that have been done, 320 have come out negative.

In an Interview with HealthTimes, Community Working Group on Health (CWGH) Executive Director, Mr Itai Rusike said widespread testing was essential for the public health response, yet testing levels remain low in Zimbabwe.

We are still not testing enough, we need to widen and deepen our testing processes and capabilities. Testing enables infected people to know that they are infected and to take measures to avoid infecting others, or to get the care they need.

“It enables authorities and public to understand the epidemic and take action to slow it. Tests may produce a false-negative result if they are done in an early stage of the disease when viral loads are too low to be detected. False negative results can also occur if there are no major respiratory symptoms and little detectable virus in the throat and nose, or if samples were poorly handled,” said Mr Rusike.

He added that government should reach out to well-wishers and the donor community in a bid to increase and improve the country’s testing capabilities.

“The WHO thus notes that additional tests may be needed in specific situations. Coordinated response in the logistics and delivery of testing equipment including through funding partners such as the Global Fund and with particular attention to vulnerable populations . “We also need to provide direct support to the existing facilities outside Harare not the current situation where all the testing processes seems to be centralized in Harare.”

Meanwhile, South Africa seems to be leading the way in Africa in terms of testing  as it is conducting not less than 3000 per day. In Europe, Germany has since led the way in Europe with large scale testing for COVID-19, collecting nearly a million samples since the start of the crisis. And although the country now ranks fifth among territories with confirmed cases – recording more than 80,000 infections – it has a much lower fatality rate than most.

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