COVID-19: Govt to test 40 000 people by end of April

Government has set a target to conduct 40 000 Coronavirus (COVID-19) tests by end of April as the country steps up efforts to eradicate the pandemic, Vice President Kembo Mohadi has said.

As chairman of the Inter-Ministerial Task Force on COVID-19, VP Mohadi toured coronavirus treatment facilities – Ekusileni Medical Centre and Thorngrove Infectious Disease Hospital before heading to the National TB Reference Laboratory at Mpilo Central Hospital where COVID-19 testing is conducted.

“The situation that we are in is very dire and difficult to comprehend. So far we have about 24 cases nationwide and three fatalities but that doesn’t mean those are the only people. We don’t have as much testing as we would have loved to do. I have set myself with my team of course a target of 40 000 tests by end of April so that from that 40 000, we see how many people would have confirmed positive,” VP Mohadi said.

He claimed the government was “distributing quite a lot of testing equipment that included rapid results equipment and the Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) machine for confirming results so that each and every province does the tests and also sends it for confirmation.”

VP Mohadi explained that to reach the 40 000 COVID-19 tests, the government would make use of GeneXpert machines, which test for Tuberculosis (TB) but with the right equipment could be used to detect for COVID-19.

He said the “lucky or good part of it is that in nearly all the districts, centres had the gene experts machine.”

“This is a machine designed to detect for TB, it can also be used to detect the coronavirus if given the right cartridge. So we are in receipt of the right cartridges to feed onto the GeneXpert to enhance our testing capacity,” said VP Mohadi.

The vice president said the government believed that if each and every province was equipped, “they would send in about 10 000 tests within the period from now up to April 30.”

Mohadi noted, “:We would definitely have the 40 000 tests, we might not reach the 40 000 but if we reach 35 000 tests or so, we would have done very well. And it doesn’t end there we will continue the sampling and testing.”

As of April 17, the country has done a total of 2 493 screening and diagnostic tests, with 1 194 done on a single day.

He lamented that Zimbabwe was not endowed with resources such as other first world countries which necessitated the need for citizens to practice preventative measures.

“We need to prevent against this virus as much as possible from spreading. Yes, we have had cases and most of these have been imported with a few infected by those that would have imported into Zimbabwe,” he said.

“But if we then happen to have the local transmission then we have a problem because we would be faced with a task of trying to trace it and tracing the people who could have gone all over the country, which then becomes really much of  a problem. Hence we are so vigorously trying to contain the virus through prevention.”

These prevention measures, VP Mohadi mentioned included the lockdown so that people do not move around.

“We have to curtail the movement of people, curtail the gathering of people so that people are confined to their homes to forestall possible transmission to other people. Yes, here and there, things have happened but it in each and every other incident that has happened, there is an accident but we don’t want it to go that way,” he said. 

“This is why I am here to see whether we are actually prepared as Zimbabweans to combat this pandemic. So that  has brought me out because I have been sending out my envoys or ministers to come and check but usually you need to the spot check yourself.”

VP Mohadi acknowledged that in terms of compliance, it was ‘very’ difficult to enforce but from the “little bit I have seen, in town, where people congregate most of the time there is some compliance.”

“Not many are seen walking across the street. Yes, there are cars here and there and I would like to believe those cars are carrying people that are in essential services. This is in Bulawayo but in Harare as well where I come from, compliance is observed. I’m yet to see if compliance is observed especially in the townships. It is unfortunate that it is growing a bit dark and won’t be in a position to see much but I will have do it. If not tonight,  I will do it first thing morning before I go to Lupane to make sure there’s compliance,” said the vice president.

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