Screening, testing must reach communities

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THE example set by neighbours South Africa — rolling out door-to-door testing and screening as confirmed cases of coronavirus (Covid-19) shot close to the 1 500 mark with five deaths as of Friday — is commendable and should be a model for other nations of the world, especially in Africa.

That Zimbabwe has decided to adopt it is the right thing to do in the circumstances, with the government announcing that it is rolling out screening and testing to provincial health centres and, funds permitting, further down.

Zimbabwe has recorded only nine confirmed cases of the deadly virus as well as one death while the bulk of the positive cases involve people who had travelled out of the country. It is possible the virus may have spread beyond the urban centres, which have been the focus of the Covid-19 response teams’ attention.

While the government has stressed its lack of capacity to extend their testing and screening to the grassroots, this does not make it less critical. There is urgent need to capacitate district health centres with testing kits as well as other equipment so that they are able to deal with any eventualities that may arise.

Crucially, having equipment in the smallest health centre in the country should be the ultimate target for government as this will lessen the time within which specimens can be processed, implying that management interventions — where necessary — can also begin early enough.

In a way, this also has the potential to reduce the eventual cost Covid-19 programmes may have if they have to extend to caring and treating thousands of people at the same time.

A stitch in time saves nine. It is important for the government to look into primary health care facilities’ capacitation when drawing up budgets for coronavirus interventions because focusing on the metropoles alone may return to haunt and strain our systems.

While efforts to capacitate the smallest health centre go on, the government must also ensure that every corner of the country — no matter how remote — has access to adequate up-to-date Covid-19 information. This can be achieved through effective educational campaigns in which civil society organisations could also assist.

When people have information, they undoubtedly make the right choices as well as decisions while they also assist in passing on correct, relevant and current Covid-19 information because they will be doing this from informed positions.

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