Paidamoyo Chipunza Senior Health Reporter
Government should consider standardising rapid test kits for mandatory testing of all employees to ensure quality results.
The call comes amid reports of some “fake” test kits on the market.
Public health expert Dr Prosper Chonzi who is also director Health Services at City of Harare said some test kits provide negative results when in actual fact the person would be positive.
“It is commendable that as people go back to work we want to know their status as far as Covid-19 is concerned. For me, rapid test would be a good starting point, but my concern is to do with quality of test kits to be used.
“If people are then asked to go and buy own test kits and bring them to the health worker for them to get tested without giving them specifics, it might compromise the whole exercise,” said Dr Chonzi.
He said to ensure that companies use validated test kits, Government should prescribe the actual type of test kits that are supposed to be used in the process or give testing institutions a provision to buy the kits and add an administration fee to the testing process in order to guarantee quality results.
“If people just procure rapid test kits from anywhere, without proper validation either by WHO, Ministry of Health or the Laboratory Scientist Council, then we run a risk of having people importing and selling fake rapid test kits in the country.
“We will then have false results, either false positives or false negatives.
“If they are false negatives, it gives us a false sense of security, if they are false positives it then impacts on our resources for the national response,” said Dr Chonzi.
He said procuring test kits as a country could also result in cheaper kits owing to economies of scale.
Zimbabwe Medical Doctors Association (ZIMA) President, Dr Francis Chiwora added that while it is good for Government to test and treat everyone, use of RDT should not be an option because of its inaccuracies.
He said Government must instead expedite the use of GeneXpert machines in testing for Covid-19 arguing that it was cheaper while giving accurate results.
“This is what they are using in South Africa, it’s less expensive and effective,” said Dr Chiwora.
The gold standard of testing for Covid-19, which is the Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) is estimated to cost between US$45 and US$65 per test against about US$25 for RDT.
The Zimbabwe College of Public Health Physicians (ZCPHP) said using RDT will only be costly, but with little value.
“If any of the above is positive, the employees should have an antigen based (PCR) test,” reads part of a statement from the physicians.
It said Government must also ensure that companies must adhere to basic hygiene measures that include hand hygiene, cough etiquette, social distancing by reorganising work places, compulsory wearing of face masks and continued education on Covid-19.
“ZCPHP strongly recommends not conducting mandatory testing of all employees with RDTs since this is going to be costly and has little value.”
Yesterday, Ministry of Health and Child Care issued guidelines on how the mandatory testing would be rolled out.