Zimbabwe faces the prospect of a full-blown COVID-19 epidemic as the government is fast running out of test kits and protective clothing, resulting in a huge backlog of thousands of untested laboratory samples countrywide.
The Zimbabwe Independent reports that the National Micro-Biology Centre at Sally Mugabe Hospital in Harare now has 4 000 samples collected in Harare alone that have not been tested.
While the government had targeted testing 1 000 people per day and conducting at least 40 000 people by the end of April, only 34 707 tests had been conducted as of yesterday.
The tests done to date consist of 19 623 rapid screening tests and 15 084 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests.
The untested samples mean that there are potentially hundreds of people who may be infected with coronavirus moving around exposing thousands more to the virus. The Zimbabwe Independent quotes its source as saying:
What this means is that all these people are freely roaming the streets and, in the event that some of them are infected, they could be spreading the virus. Remember that as of now, the country is only testing those who develop symptoms similar to COVID-19 who want to know their status. There is very little proactive testing going on.
There is no reagent now in the country as we speak and the situation is really scary especially if you look at it in the context of the decision by the government to significantly ease the lockdown even without having first satisfied the minimum requirements as stipulated by the World Health Organisation. The effects are likely to be felt in two or so weeks.
Health and Child Care minister Obadiah Moyo confirmed to the publication that the government does not have enough test kits. Said Moyo:
Going forward, we plan to increase the number of tests per day but we are hampered by lack of access to testing kits and PPE (personal protective equipment).
Recently, the Bulawayo testing centre was closed for almost a week, after the Mpilo Central Hospital’s National Tuberculosis Reference Laboratory ran out of consumables.
As of 21 May 2020, Zimbabwe had 51 confirmed cases, 18 recoveries and four deaths.