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Bulawayo resumes Covid-19 testing

by Staff reporter
10 May 2020 at 07:33hrs | Views
TESTING of the coronavirus at the National Tuberculosis Reference Laboratory in Bulawayo resumed yesterday after a two-day stoppage that was triggered by shortages of consumables.

The centre, housed at Mpilo Central Hospital, had not carried out tests on Thursday and Friday and resumed yesterday using consumables that were meant to train staff, it has been learnt.

Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health and Child Care Dr Agnes Mahomva told Sunday News that the team at the reference laboratory in Bulawayo had temporarily stopped doing tests.

"They were testing and ran out of micro pipettes, unfortunately they got the wrong size so they could not continue but that has since been sorted out. These pipettes come in various sizes and when they ordered they got the wrong size and they couldn't proceed. The good thing is that when they get their samples they are preserved in the fridge and they can now resume testing and results will be out. That is one of those technicalities and that is why we reported it, there is nothing to hide, these things do happen. They have no problems and their machine is working actually," said Dr Mahomva.

Bulawayo Provincial Medical Director, Dr Welcome Mlilo also told the Minister of Local Government and Public Works, July Moyo and the Deputy Minister of Health and Child Care, Dr John Mangwiro, yesterday at Ekusileni Medical Centre that resource limitations remained a major challenge for the city to meet the set target of samples tested at the centre.

He said the centre has survived on borrowing some consumables from the National University of Science and Technology (Nust) but the university had also run out of the consumables.

"The laboratory can do a maximum of 300 Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) tests per day. To date, we have received PCR kits sufficient for 3 000 tests and extraction kits adequate for 5 400 reactions. Unfortunately, we have not been allocated any consumables such as pipettes, pipette tips and micro-centrifuge tubes.

"We have been borrowing these from the Nust DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) testing lab . . . This has resulted in us failing to conduct any tests for the past two days. Today (yesterday) we will be able to do a few tests using consumables that were sent for training purposes, this has thus seen us having a backlog of over 600 samples," said Dr Mlilo.

Dr Mlilo said the testing laboratory requires US$2,55 million to upgrade it and ensure that it can carry out 25 000 tests over a period of six months.

"It is obviously disappointing that we are failing to conduct the necessary tests due to lack of certain consumables. I have communicated with officials in Harare and they have assured me that these consumables are now on their way to Bulawayo to ensure that the city manages to meet their target of daily tests. As it stands the city is already lagging behind by two to three days, which is unacceptable because as a region you are catering for a larger population hence we have to make sure that we give you these required consumables. I will personally address this anomaly, we cannot have a situation where someone says they will bring the supplies next week, why should it be delayed, those consumables should be supplied as of yesterday," said Dr Mangwiro.

Minister Moyo, who is member of the Inter-ministerial taskforce, tasked with spearheading efforts to fight Covid-19 in the country and is responsible for resource mobilisation, also said it was worrying that the country's health institutions could only handle moderate Covid-19, with none that could handle extreme cases.

"I requested a detailed report on our health institutions in terms of Covid-19 preparedness and I was shocked to discover that while most were saying they are ready, they indicated that they can only handle mild cases, with all saying they are not ready to accommodate extreme cases. This is rather worrying which is why we want this hospital (Ekusileni) to open as soon as possible. Actually, I will be requesting a gun chat from officials at Ekusileni so they tell me when they expect to have opened and be ready to have even the extreme cases, if we get any, hospitalised at the institution," said Minister Moyo.

Ekusileni Medical Centre acting chief executive officer, Dr Absalom Dube revealed that if allocated the necessary funds they will be able to admit their first 50 patients in the next three weeks. This comes as latest statistics from the Ministry of Health and Child Care indicated that by Friday the country had recorded 35 confirmed cases of Covid-19.

Meanwhile, more than 24 000 people have been arrested for various offences since the national lockdown started on March 30. The country is this week entering the last week of the national lockdown which is expected to come to an end on Sunday. Police National spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi said people were still being found on the wrong side of the law.

"The lockdown is continuing and people must continue to observe the social distancing guidelines. People must continue to wear masks and continue to adhere to what has been set by the Government. The police are basically there to enforce all the laws that have been put in place to ensure the safety and security and health of Zimbabweans," he said.

Asked to clarify the issue of carrying letters authorising them to travel, Asst Comm Nyathi said it was still mandatory that one carries it.

"If the police do not verify somebody's work status how then can they certify that this person is indeed going for work or not. Remember the Government has said people involved in the industry and commerce sector can go to work. That does not mean each and every person should be moving around the Central Business District. If you check the CBD, it is only people allowed to work that are coming," he said.

Last week, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Mr Nick Mangwana said while exemption letters during the lockdown were not policy, administratively authorities would require people to present evidence that they were part of the bracket of people that were required to go to work as per the provisions of the lockdown.
Source - sundaynews