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'Faulty' COVID-19 test kits cause confusion

26 Apr 2020 at 12:35hrs | Views
SOME of the test kits being used by the government to test for coronavirus are defective, causing confusion among people testing positive for the virus, an official has revealed.

Zimbabwe was on Friday forced to revise down the number of people that have so far tested positive for coronavirus to 28 from 29, citing a miscount of cases from Bulawayo.

Zephaniah Dlamini, the head of the Applied Genetics Testing Centre at the National University of Science and Technology (NUST), yesterday told Finance minister Mthuli Ncube during a tour of Mpilo central Hospital in Bulawayo that faulty test kits were causing confusion in the collation of coronavirus statistics.

"Minister, we feel there is need for government to invest in getting the reliable polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test machines because they give results that one can rely on," Dlamini said.

"The PCR machines are better than these other test kits that have been used by other institutions, which were donated.

"We have had challenges where these donated test kits have given false positive outcomes in cases where these people are proved to be negative.

"This has created a lot of challenges as we will then have to re-test these casesusing the (PCR) machines here in Bulawayo so that we are sure whether these people have the virus or not."

The Covid-19 test kits were part of equipment donated by Chinese billionaire Jack Ma to fight the pandemic.

But some of the test kits, seen as essential in detecting the presence of the coronavirus, are said to be causing headaches for health authorities as they were producing wrong results.

A government official said there had been several cases where people were initially told that they had tested positive before they were declared coronavirus-free.

"We have had cases in Bulawayo, for instance, where a whole family was initially said to be positive of the coronavirus," the official said.

"But when the tests were then re-conducted here at Mpilo [Hospital] using the PCR machine, the results came back negative," an official, who refused to be named for security reasons said.

"Such cases have also been recorded in Harare and these test kits are now creating confusion and we are no longer sure as a nation where our statistics stand in as far as this coronavirus is concerned."

The official added: "There has been a proposal to government to return these defective test kits back to China because they are not serving any purpose.

"In actual fact, the donated test kits have cost us a lot of time, energy and resources as a nation."

But Information and Publicity permanent secretary Nick Mangwana said government had banned the use of any test kits other than ones approved for use.

"I am not aware of any particular case where there have been false or wrong results from PCR machines that are used in all instances where government is involved," Mangwana said.

"Government has taken a position to say that test kits that are certified (by the ministry) are the ones that will be used.

"If there are others that are continuously giving false positives, then it is indeed a cause for concern."

Meanwhile, Ncube said the government would provide funds to upgrade Mpilo Central Hospital for it to effectively handle coronavirus testing. "It is very clear that we need more capacity in terms of the PCR machines that they have here so that Mpilo can be more effective in processing the tests that come here," Ncube said.

"I am also aware that the centre here needs upgrading so that it can qualify to be a global testing centre for Covid-19.

"Our role as treasury is to ensure that we find more resources for institutions like this…This is a key institution.

"They won't be joining the long queue (of needy institutions). We shall process their requests once they submit their budgets to the ministry."

Zimbabwe had recorded 28 coronavirus cases as of Friday with four deaths.

Source - The Standard
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