Govt intensifies Covid-19 fight – Screening decentralised to district hospitals

Nqobile Tshili/ Patrick Chitumba, Chronicle Reporters
SCREENING for Covid-19 through Rapid Diagnosis Tests (RDT) has been decentralised to district hospitals to speed up testing of the virus as Government intensifies the fight against the pandemic.

The RDT is done to screen Covid-19 cases.

If the specimen is positive, it is then referred to Harare or Bulawayo for a confirmation test known as a DNA polymerase chain reaction (PCR).

Government has been distributing RDT testing kits for Covid-19 across the country to ensure that all suspected cases receive preliminary results as soon as possible, with only confirmatory laboratory tests required being done at the National TB Reference Laboratory at Mpilo Central Hospital in Bulawayo and the National Reference Laboratory housed at Sally Mugabe Central Hospital in Harare.

Matabeleland South Provincial Medical Director Dr Chipo Chikodzore said the province was conducting the RDT as part of Covid-19 screening processes but confirmations can only be done by PCR testing.

“The RDT tests for antibodies, so when somebody gets an infection the body produces antibodies in trying to fight off the infection.

“When somebody is infected with Covid-19, the body starts producing the antibodies. If you get a positive test using the RDT we then conduct the usual tests that are done at Mpilo Central Hospital and in Harare for the confirmation. The RDT, we use for screening and the PCR for confirmation,” she said.

Dr Chikodzore said the province started RDT on Thursday after receiving 200 kits.

“We received the test kits on Wednesday and we distributed them on Thursday and Friday when tests were done.

“We received another consignment today which will be distributed tomorrow morning,” said Dr Chikodzore.

Matabeleland North Provincial Medical Director Dr Purgie Chimberengwa said RDT commenced in the province last week on Monday.

He said he did not have off hand figures of the number of people that the province tested.

“The DNA PCR is the one that proves active disease in a person. So sometimes you can do a RDT and it may come positive but after doing the PCR it may come out negative. The RDT is just a screening test.

“You can test anyone including those not symptomatic. When it is positive you would want to confirm using the DNA PCR,” he said.

In an interview yesterday, the Midlands Provincial Medical Director Dr Reginald Mhene said all the district hospitals in the province had started conducting RDT for Covid-19.

“Rapid diagnosis tests for Covid-19 testing is now being done at all district hospitals in the province. When there is need for confirmation, which is a critical part in managing the outbreak, samples are taken to Harare or Bulawayo,” he said.

Dr Mhene said to date there hasn’t been any confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Midlands province.

“As of April 15, Midlands Province tested 13 suspects and they all tested negative. Of these Kwekwe had five, Zvishavane and Chirumhanzu two each, Gweru three and Gokwe North one,” he said.

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