Govt urged to expedite COVID-19 testing

By Albert Nxumalo

The Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) has raised a red flag on the number people who have been tested for Coronavirus saying the figure is too low and it might not be a true reflection as thousands of people from high-risk countries continue to arrive in the country.

The commission said there is an urgent need to scale up testing to ascertain the true nature of the spread of the global pandemic in the country.

As of 31 March, the Ministry of Health and Child Care said out of an accumulative 274 tests done,  266 were negative and only 8 cases turned up positive with only one death recorded.

Said the commission, “According to the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation Television (ZBCT) updates only 194 suspected cases has been tested by 30 March 2020.

“The number is too small given that there are thousands of people who arrived into the country since the outbreak, some of them from high-risk countries and regions.

“This means that our national statistics may not be accurate,” said the commission putting out a disclaimer that it relied on media reports and updates from relevant ministries as opposed to its traditional norm of independently verifying facts on the ground.

Announcing the 21-day national lockdown last Friday, President Emmerson Mnangagwa said to contain the spread of COVID-19, testing would be decentralised to provincial hubs countrywide to expedite testing and diagnostic services.

However, the commission is worried about the slow pace of decentralisation of testing facilities.

“By now provinces should be have been sharing daily updates of their tested cases and the respective results so that the nation has the holistic picture of the situation”.

Presently, all tests are carried out at the National Microbiology Reference Laboratory at Sally Mugabe Central Hospital in Harare with confirmatory tests being taken to South Africa’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD).

The commission is also worried about the influx of products largely speculate to reduce risk of infections.

Many people have resorted to wearing surgical masks and latex gloves in public to prevent themselves from contracting the deadly virus.

“The market is getting flooded with “new” products that are surfacing including sanitisers, disinfectants and masks,” it said.

“The risk of fake and ineffective products on the market is very high thereby exposing unsuspecting members of the public to dangers of infections”.

All supplies must be tested by experts and only certified products should be allowed on the market, recommended the commission.

The commission appealed to the security forces deployed to enforce restrictive measures outlined by the government to observe human rights in their operations.
“Law enforcement agents should be guided by the human rights-based approach in performing their duties and responsibilities.

“Peaceful maintenance of law and order is encouraged “.

However, the commission commended government for ” bold decisions and actions” pronounced in combating Coronavirus saying the “Head of State and Government has demonstrated leadership in implementing the current 21-day lockdown across the entire country”.

The lockdown runs from 30 March to 19 April and is subject to a review.

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