HomeLocalFalse Covid-19 tests raise fresh questions

False Covid-19 tests raise fresh questions

BY BLESSED MHLANGA

The government has defended its testing system for coronavirus after it was forced to review downwards the number of Covid-19 cases recorded in the country so far following the retesting of six people from Harare.

On Thursday, the Health and Child Care ministry announced that it had ordered the retesting of six people believed to be nurses and a doctor at a major hospital in the capital following an “unusual clustering” of cases.

The following day the ministry said Zimbabwe’s coronavirus positive cases had been revised downwards from 40 to 34 after all those that were retested were found to be negative.

Agnes Mahomva, the Health and Child Care secretary told The Standard last night that there was nothing amiss about the retests.

“We saw an unusual cluster of six results and in line with our standard operating procedures and quality assurance processes, when you establish something like that; you have to redo certain processes to make sure there is no contamination,” Mahomva said.

“This is exactly what happened.

“We went through our quality process of quality assurance.”

She said the ministry was still investigating whether the false results were due to faulty kits or human error.

“We are still continuing to look at it,” Mahomva said.

“But we are happy that we now have the right results. We are very happy with that process.

“In terms of looking at what happened, [and] how, those are just processes that we continue to look into.

“But I want to give you confidence that we managed to pick up the unusual cluster.”

The change in the national statistics was the second time the ministry had to revise downwards the number of recorded Covid-19 cases after a Bulawayo case was allegedly counted twice a week ago.

It has since emerged that the six Harare cases involved a doctor and nurses, who were tested during training of health workers on coronavirus testing protocols at a major hospital in the capital.

Doctors at the named institution are said to have asked to be trained to carry out the tests. The training was carried out in the maternity ward where the doctor and nurses initially tested positive.

“The reason why these people had to be subjected to second tests is in two parts and not only the issue that this was unusual, but because they had been done by a person, who is still under training. The risk that they had done it the wrong way was high,” said a health worker at the institution.

“Retests had to be conducted and the results came out negative and also because, the reagents that were used in these tests could have been faulty and some of the lysing solution provided is not of good standard.

“Despite complaints raised by doctors on the testing procedures nothing has been done.”

Former Health minister Henry Madzorera, who is also the MDC secretary for health, said the number of cases involved in the retests raised questions.

“We raised alarm at the fact that six positive cases were going for an unspecified quality check,” Madzorere said.

“We are now told that the six positives are now negative, how is that possible?

“How did such a high false positive rate come to be? Is the rest of the testing reliable?”

There were reports that some of the Covid-19 testing kits Zimbabwe received from China as donations were faulty.

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