HEALTH and Child Care minister Obadiah Moyo yesterday revealed that Zimbabwe now has 300 testing kits for the 2019 Novel coronavirus, which the World Health Organisation says is now officially referred to as COVID-19.
Previously, Zimbabwe was relying on neighbouring South Africa to diagnose suspected cases of the deadly coronavirus as its laboratories did not have the required equipment to perform the tests.
Moyo told journalists during a post-Cabinet media briefing held in Harare yesterday that the test kits will be enough to test individuals suspected of having the virus, given the low numbers of people coming into the country from affected areas.
“Regarding our laboratory status, yes, we have been relying on sending samples to be tested in neighbouring South Africa, but on this occasion, we have assessed our national micro biology laboratory and we found it to have adequate equipment for testing as we now have 300 test kits.
“The 300 testing kits are more than enough for us at the moment considering the low numbers of people that have been coming into the country from affected areas and that not even a single one of them has been confirmed to have the virus,” Moyo said.
The COVID-19 has so far killed 1 100 people and infected more than 45 000 people globally.
In Zimbabwe, 1 433 people have come into the country from affected areas, but no cases of the virus have been confirmed yet.
“The tests are a second level of the screening process. The first level begins with thermal detectors and if no temperature is detected we are then satisfied that the person is safe to enter the country. If they are found to have symptoms of the virus, then we go to the testing stage.
“So, it’s not everybody who is going to be tested, and therefore 300 kits are a good number to start with especially if we are considering that in the whole of Africa right now, there has not been a single case.
“The chances of the disease arriving here, in line with the statistics, and also in line with the deterrent mechanisms which have been put in place, are limited,” Moyo said.
He added that the ministry was now working towards acquiring rapid response testing kits which will enable virus detection in about 15 minutes.
“The only thing that we want to add on the testing platform is to come up with rapid test kits which will give us results in about 15 minutes.
“The current ones take at least five hours, it’s not too long but we want to improve on that. So, we have already found the supplier for the rapid response testing kit for the coronavirus 2019 and very soon, we will have them,” he said.
On the monitoring of individuals who come into the country from affected countries, Moyo said they have put measures to ensure that they practise self-quarantining for the recommended days.
“As you might be aware, last week the Chinese government recommended that we impose 21 days of self-quarantine on individuals coming from China as a measure to discourage Chinese nationals from coming into the country.
“We cannot stop Chinese nationals from coming to Zimbabwe, but we are going to be following up on them everyday to ensure that they are self-quarantining themselves for 21 days and to monitor if they have the virus or not.
“Likewise, we also urge locals not to engage in unnecessary movements to avoid catching the virus and coming back with it into the country,” Moyo said.