BY VANESSA GONYE
A prominent access to health activist says Zimbabwe must improve its Covid-19 contact tracing and testing to avoid a third wave of the outbreak of the disease fuelled by the Indian variant of the coronavirus.
The first cases of people infected with the Indian variant were detected in Kwekwe early this month and the city was immediately put under a two-week lockdown.
Itai Rusike, Community Working Group on Health executive director, said the country’s Covid-19 response must be based on reliable epidemiological data so that the government, businesses, and the public can better manage the pandemic, save lives, and keep the economy open.
“Testing is one of the critical tools to fight this pandemic because it saves lives, allows the economy to re-open and stay open and it is vital for the introduction of vaccines and therapeutics,” Rusike said.
“Inadequate testing inhibits proper understanding of the prevalence and incidence of Covid-19, thus enhancing the risk of undetected community spread.
“For this reason, we call upon the government of Zimbabwe to adopt and enhance use of quality assured antigen tests to help scale up testing levels in the country.
“Although the WHO (World Health Organisation) recommends using PCR tests to confirm Covid-19 cases when possible, using antigen tests widely across the country will vastly improve the government’s ability to respond to the pandemic based on sound data.”
Rusike urged the ministry of Health and Child Care to work with the relevant government agencies to order quality-assured antigen tests and ensure a regulatory process is in place to prevent low quality and falsified products from entering the market.
“The ministry should work with other government agencies to ensure that an adequate public budget is allocated for procurement of antigen tests and testing this fiscal year,” he said.
“Given the importance of testing and the pandemic response, it is critical that adequate funding be earmarked for diagnostic efforts moving forward.”