AS THE country records sharp increases in Covid-19 cases — mostly from returnees — doctors have called on government to test all those coming back into the country on the first day they arrive in Zimbabwe.
In interviews with the Daily News on Sunday, representatives of doctors’ organisations argued that most people in quarantine centres go for more than 21 days without being tested for the coronavirus.
Currently, 343 people have tested positive for Covid-19, with 51 recoveries and four deaths, with the last 11 cases involving returnees from South Africa, according to statistics released by the Health ministry on Friday.
“What the government has been doing lately is that when someone tests positive, they take them to an isolation centre like Wilkins (Infectious Diseases) Hospital where they stay until they test negative and allowed to go home. However, our main issue is that they do the Rapid test on Day 1 and PCR test on Day 8. During that period, the person could be moving around the quarantine centre infecting others unknowingly through sharing of bathrooms, utensils and interaction in those centres. By Day 8, the negative patient from the Rapid test becomes our biggest problem,” Senior Hospital Doctors Association (SHDA) secretary-general Aaron Musara said.
The surgeon also emphasised that the quarantine centres need to be made more habitable and as long as they are of a poor quality, more and more people will find ways out of them.
Adding that what is happening with the Covid-19 pandemic in Zimbabwe and returnees, is the effects of economic mismanagement that is now haunting the country.
Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights secretary-general Norman Matara said the problem is that people are not being tested early and when they eventually do get the tests, their results are also delayed which promotes the spread of the coronavirus.
He said people with unknown statuses have now become conduits of the disease and with the poor conditions at the quarantine centres, the spread is aggravated.
Matara also highlighted that because most of the people in quarantine centres are sharing spaces, they are not being grouped according to when they arrived in the country or at the centre.
“We can say that most people at the quarantine centres are contracting the virus from there. Not all of them arrive with Covid-19. People are just being mixed – old comers and newcomers. They are not being grouped accordingly and this may be one of the ways that the centres are always recording new positive cases daily.”
“Another issue is the testing kits. We have been advocating for the PCR test on the first and eighth day as it is more sensitive but the government has ignored that. The World Health Organisation has clearly stated that the Rapid test should not be used for screening and diagnostics but we are still using it. To many doctors, the test does not make sense because its results are not conclusive. Government simply needs to apply the gold standard and do PCR test,” Matara said.
Chief coordinator of the National Covid-19 Taskforce Agnes Mahomva highlighted that the concerns of doctors were being taken into consideration by the government.
She said at all ports of entry as per recommendations, returnees are first subjected to the Rapid test which will determine whether they should have the PCR immediately or after eight days.
The physician said there has been a backlog with regards to some returnees who were not tested immediately but that was being taken care of.
“The ministry of Health is now working on clearing that testing backlog and soon they will be up to date. They have managed to secure US$5 million for Covid-19 resources so that future backlogs do not occur,” Mahomva said.