By Nqobile Tshili
COVID-19 testing commenced at Mpilo Central Hospital in Bulawayo on Sunday with the health institution starting with six samples as the Government decentralises the testing system to the southern part of the country.
Mpilo Central Hospital in conjunction with the National University of Science and Technology’s (Nust) Applied Genetic Testing Centre (AGTC) will be testing samples from Bulawayo, Matabeleland North, Matabeleland South, Midlands and Masvingo.
The development means that results of tested samples would be released faster as opposed to having a centralised system.
Previously, Covid-19 tests were only being done at the National Microbiology Reference Laboratory in Harare, delaying release of the results. Conducting tests locally means that results can now be released within five hours of being collected.
So far Zimbabwe has recorded 17 Covid-19 positive cases, two of them in Bulawayo. From the 17 cases, three people have died.
Nust’s AGTC director Mr Zephaniah Dhlamini said they were using the internationally recognised system to test the samples.
“We started testing yesterday. We started with six samples. We are using World Health Organisation (WHO) and American Centre of Disease Control approved systems. If you go anywhere in the world, they will be using the same system. We are not doing haphazard and controversial rapid tests. We are doing the high-end tests which is the polymerase chain reaction,” said Mr Dhlamimi.
He said they have partially moved equipment from the Nust’s DNA lab to Mpilo Central Hospital where local tests are being conducted. He said local tests will result in results being released much earlier.
“Government has provided us with test kits enough to handle 3000 samples. With the local tests it means the turnaround period would be much better and results for tested samples would be available within 24 hours.
“Depending on the number of samples that would have been done, the process to confirm a case takes at least five hours but again I will emphasise that this depends on the number of samples. When you are testing 10 samples it is different from testing 100 samples but the give and take period is about five hours,” he said.
Mr Dhlamini said protective gear for the laboratory team remains a challenge that can hamper their tests.
“The challenge that we have at the moment is we don’t have enough protective equipment. We actually don’t have it. If nothing is done today, we will stop testing today up until we get adequate protective material,” said Mr Dhlamini.
Mpilo Central Hospital acting chief executive officer Dr Solwayo Ngwenya said it was a good development that tests were being conducted locally.
He said hospital authorities will ensure lives of health workers conducting the tests will not be put at risk.
Bulawayo City Council (BCC) director of health services Dr Edwin Sibanda said conducting local tests will improve the confirmation of suspected cases. The Chronicle