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Zimbabwe govt speaks on rapid testing kits, temperatures

by Staff reporter
07 May 2020 at 11:09hrs | Views
NO ONE will be allowed to sell invalidated Covid-19 rapid diagnostic test kits, while temperatures which show readings above 38 degrees Celsius during screening are considered abnormal and will necessitate testing for the virus.

Responding to concerns on effectiveness of RDTs being used to screen for Covid-19 yesterday, Health and Child Care Minister Dr Obadiah Moyo said the rapid test kits should only be used for surveillance only and not for diagnostics. This comes as the Government is engaging with the World Health Organisation (WHO) to develop guidelines on recommended test kits and their use. Dr Moyo said for diagnostics, the country will be using the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test, which is the gold standard.

"The rapid test kits are not going to be used for diagnosis of Covid-19 because they have to be validated and they are not for patient management. They are strictly for the purposes of epidemiological survey and nothing else.

"For diagnosis purposes, we have the PCR platforms, which we have been using all along and all our results have been based on the PCR diagnostic platform," said Dr Moyo.

He said those concerned about the use of rapid test kits must not worry because rapid testing was just for epidemiological survey. "Furthermore, RDTs that we might have to use must be fully validated and no one should come and use any rapid test kits. We are talking with the WHO to give us those guidelines and also from China who have been using these rapid test kits," said Dr Moyo.

He said there was a possibility that rapid test kits might have to be validated twice, from the country of origin as well as here in Zimbabwe. Commenting on the latest trend, where there is no confirmation of new cases for Covid-19 in the last 7 days, Dr Moyo said the trend does not give Government an opportunity to relax, instead they will continue with more surveillance and testing.

"We have received a lot of questions as to why we have not been getting any positives in the last seven days or so. This is the picture which is coming up, but it does not necessarily mean that we are over the disease in Zimbabwe. "It is possible that we might be able to get more positives so the issue is we are not going to be relaxing because we have been getting negatives. We have to be much more serious and we have to make sure that we continue applying the measures that will stop Covid-19," said Dr Moyo.

WHO representative in Zimbabwe Dr Alex Gasasira said while his organisation does not recommend mandatory testing as a precondition for people to go back to work, many other countries have come up with different strategies beyond WHO's recommendations. "The Government of Zimbabwe is not the only government that is looking at other options beyond what WHO recommends, but I would say that it is important for everybody, not only those returning to work, but all members of the society — the risk of getting Covid-19 is not only for those going to work, but everybody — so it is important to emphasise on those prevention measures," said Dr Gasasira.

Prevention measures include regular hand hygiene, respiratory etiquette, keeping away from others when sick, social distancing, touching of nose, eyes and mouth.

"These are very proven interventions which everybody must follow. We are very pleased that there is increasing use of hand sanitisers and screening of customers at most companies, these are very critical for all of us. All of us must apply these measures," said Dr Gasasira.

As of 5 May, the Government had tested 14 821 people and 34 tested positive to Covid-19.

Meanwhile, Cabinet has agreed that companies opening under level two of the national lockdown must, among other things, ensure temperature screening for all employees on entry to workplaces. Workers with temperatures above the range set by the Ministry of Health and Child Care would be required to undergo mandatory testing for Covid-19 at a ministry facility. Health and Child Care Secretary Dr Agnes Mahomva said temperatures above 38 degrees Celsius were considered above normal and necessitated testing for the virus.

"What we are saying is that one's temperature should be normal, if it is above normal, which is any reading from 38 degrees Celsius and above, that person would need to be further investigated for Covid-19," said Dr Mahomva.

According to health experts, normal body temperature (normothermia, euthermia) is the typical temperature range found in humans which is typically stated as between 36,5 and 37,5°C.

However, human body temperatures vary depending on sex, age, time of day, exertion level, health status (such as illness and menstruation), state of consciousness and emotions.

Source - the herald