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City rolls out free Covid-19 testing. . . as demand for graves soar

By Cletus Mushanawani

Mutare City Council’s Health Department in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and Child Care are rolling out free Covid-19 screening and testing in the city at a time where burials recorded this January alone have surpassed last year’s monthly averages.

Mutare City Council Health Department and the Ministry of Health and Child Care staffers busy at work screening and testing residents for Covid-19 at Sakubva Beit Hall on Wednesday. —Picture: Tinai Nyadzayo.
Mutare City Council Health Department and the Ministry of Health and Child Care staffers busy at work screening and testing residents for Covid-19 at Sakubva Beit Hall on Wednesday. —Picture: Tinai Nyadzayo.

The Rapid Diagnostic Antigen Test is being done at Mutare (Queen’s), Dangamvura and Sakubva Beit halls from 9am to 3pm. They are being done from Monday to Friday.

Results will be available within 15 minutes.

As of Wednesday, Manicaland had the second highest active Covid-19 cases of 1 350 after Harare’s 4 052.

The province also had the third highest deaths in the country of 127 after Harare’s 314 and Bulawayo’s 159 respectively.

The free screening and testing comes at a time when some private laboratories are charging as much as US$60 for one to obtain a Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) certificate.

City of Mutare spokesperson, Mr Spren Mutiwi, confirmed the development and said it is meant to curb the spread of the disease in Mutare and Manicaland at large since the province has had a spike in both Covid-19 infections and deaths.

“We are carrying out rapid testing and screening of Covid-19 in the city as a way of assisting members of the public who most of them were failing to meet the high costs of testing being charged by private players.

“We have taken the initiative together with the Ministry of Health and Child Care so that this becomes our accelerated response to the Covid-19 fight. It is also meant to ensure that we curb the further spread of the pandemic. It will also give individuals a chance to know their status so that preventive measures will be taken.

“Our centres will be ready to assist all those interested in being testing at no cost. We are in a lockdown situation where most revenues have taken a nosedive to most people especially those in the informal sector, so we hope many people will benefit from this initiative,” said Mr Mutiwi.

He urged residents to come up in their numbers and get tested.

“The onus is on us because if you look at the graph in terms of Covid-19 statistics, as a province things are not looking good for us. By implementing this Covid-19 accelerated testing response mechanism, we hope it will go a long way in ensuring that we curb the further spreading of this pandemic and we create a health environment.

“Over and above that, we are saying the major preventative measures are masking up, maintaining both psychical and social distance, sanitising or washing of hands with water and soap. We are always encouraging people to adhere to national lockdown restrictions especially those businesses that have been closed.

“People should learn to stay at home. That is the key fundamental thing to do in terms of Covid-19 prevention. We want to ensure that we have a healthy city and province at large since Manicaland has recorded a increase in both the number of deaths and number of infections,” he said.

While efforts are being made to curb the spread of the pandemic, operational challenges among them the slow rate of turnover of results, with some samples going missing, while some results never come out continue being accounted.

Mr Mutiwi said: “We are continuing encountering a number of challenges among them the delay in completion of renovations at Mutare Infectious Disease Hospital. There is need to complete the renovation work at the hospital due to the increase of patients who need admission in a hospital set-up.

“The hospital currently have four beds available to admit patients. The High Dependency Unit has been completed, but is not yet furnished or equipped to meet the requirements for admission of individuals needing intensive care. Only one ICU bed is available for use.

“More oxygen is also needed due to the increase in patients needing oxygen. Available stocks are running out though more continue to be sourced,” he said.

Mr Mutiwi also said there has been a spike in the number of burials being recorded at the city’s cemeteries especially in Dangamvura.

“Indeed, there is a spike in the number of burials. Contingent measures are being put in place and additional manpower is expected by end of this week. As of Monday, there have been 68 burials recorded from January 1 to 17 against an average of 45 to 46 burials per month for the entire 2020. By the end of the month, we would have surpassed 100 burials because yesterday (Thursday) 97 burials had been done,” said Mr Mutiwi.

He said the local authority is now using a backhoe loader to facilitate the grave digging process which over the years is done manually.

“Due to the demand of graves, the backhoe loader will only assist trenching between one to two metres and the grave diggers will finish the process.

The grave diggers were now being overwhelmed by the workload and it was seen necessary to come up with a measure that speed up the process so that we don’t have grave shortages.

“The new burial regulations are also fuelling the demand since some will not afford the new requirements of having bodies sealed in triple casks for them to be transported to their preferred destinations,” said Mr Mutiwi. Manica Post