24-hour testing for Covid-19

Nqobile Tshili, Chronicle Reporter
GOVERNMENT will soon conduct 24-hour Covid-19 testing and is recruiting laboratory technicians to do the job as novel coronavirus cases surge in the country.

As of Saturday, Covid-19 cases had increased to 3 659 including 69 deaths and 1 011 recoveries.

Most of the cases are now locally transmitted with experts expressing concern that the country is not conducting enough tests.

Government has availed funding for the recruitment of the technicians in the field of applied biology, microbiology, biotechnology, biochemistry and related sectors.

Graduates in the fields will undergo Covid-19 training in Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) testing.

Health and Child Care Ministry Acting Permanent Secretary Dr Gibson Mhlanga said recruitment of laboratory technicians is imminent and Government wants to address some of the shortcomings of limited staff.

“So, we are expecting to recruit people in those fields across the country from all universities especially those who are not yet employed, so that we could boost our testing capacities.

“We are able to conduct just over 1 500 tests a day but if we recruit more people, we will do more,” said Dr Mhlanga.

“Because the idea, instead of having a shift where people come from 8AM to 5PM, we want to work another shift that works up to midnight and if possible, another shift that works from midnight to morning to clear any backlog.

“The recruitment is with immediate effect. The Government has allocated funds to allow us to do that.”

He, however, could not disclose how much Government had allocated towards the exercise as well the number of existing technicians and those to be recruited, stating that he did not have statistics off hand.

Government also stated that Rapid Response Teams will be equipped with vehicles to enable them to efficiently deliver their duties.

Dr Mhlanga said the move will address shortcomings that come with shortage of staff including testing backlog.

“The backlog, it means that we don’t get results quickly enough and then it affects how patients are managed in terms of those who are negative.

“For instance, those in quarantine centres who can be discharged and those who are in quarantine who are positive, who need to be isolated,” said Dr Mhlanga.

“The delays in testing means that those decisions are also delayed and that results in people overstaying whether they are in quarantine or isolation.”

Dr Mhlanga could not reveal the country’s testing backlog saying it is a moving target.

Some returnees in Bulawayo have in the past protested after they were kept for more than the prescribed eight-days in quarantine centres due to delays in conducting tests.

Mpilo Central Hospital acting chief executive officer Professor Solwayo Ngwenya, said with the increase in local transmissions, it is only sensible to conduct more local tests.

He advocated for behaviour change in communities citing that the country has limited resources to deal with an exponential increase in Covid-19.

“The new challenge is that we are going to see a lot of people dying because they have not been tested. There is an acute shortage of test kits worldwide.

“They cost a lot of money to get into the country and there would be a need for a lot of people to go around testing. And very soon there is going to be a lot of infections because of the behaviour of the population.

“I think Government is right in trying to increase the capacity of the staff because I can foresee a situation where everybody needs to be tested,” said Prof Ngwenya.-@nqotshili

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