WATCH: Government working to improve testing of returnees

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By Margaret Matibiri
GOVERNMENT says it is working around the clock to improve COVID-19- testing on returning residents as the country’s number of confirmed cases continues to rise with the bulk being returning residents.
In an interview with the ZBC News, Chief Coordinator COVID-19 Response in the Office of the President and Cabinet, Dr Agnes Mahomva said the government is working to address all challenges regarding the testing of returning residents.
“We have been working flat out when we noticed that the majority of the cases that are confirmed are really returning residents coming through our ports of entry…..It became very clear that it’s the area we need to focus on, to do that we need to focus on testing and to do that we ensure that we develop the integrated guidelines that allow us to work together, the Ministry of Health and Child Care, Labor and Social Welfare who identify the quarantine facility, law and order for the security, so we are not doing things in a silo, we are really working together ensuring that we are strengthening the management of the quarantine facilities,” she said.
She added that the government has set aside funds to the tune of US$5million for the procurement of test kits to ensure the smooth testing of returning citizens in quarantine centres.
“We still have some gaps here and there and challenges but we can clearly see the improvements as we are moving on. For example, we are doing training of officers who are working in facilities to ensure they are following the guidelines properly. We are also cascading the training all the way down to the provinces and yes, there’s a lot of work happening, lots of improvements…. A lot of challenges that we have been seeing in our quarantine centres have got to do with testing and we have acknowledged we hear from the public out there, some, residents coming in and complaining about the issue of testing and we took note of that and we have said, moving forward we need to prioritise the quarantine facilities so that we test more there and there have been some improvements but again, we still have a lot to do. We have been facing challenges with test kits themselves, the quantities, again we have now mobilized resources, treasury has availed some monies, US$5 million is now available and the processes of getting additional kits are very much at an advanced stage,” said Mahomva.
The United Nations, (UN) Resident Coordinator Ms Maria Ribeiro shed more light on how the organisation is working closely with the government of Zimbabwe in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The first thing the UN did here in Zimbabwe and other countries as well was to work closely with the Ministry of Health in the preparedness and planning to address the issues of the pandemic, in the beginning, cases were few and far apart, we all knew that by looking at the way the pandemic was spreading in other countries that Zimbabwe had to be ready and prepared for it,” said Ms Ribeiro.
Asked on how best Zimbabwe can prepare itself in the wake of the COVID-19 PANDEMIC as well as other diseases Mrs Ribeiro pointed to the continuity of health services as being essential.
“As Dr Mahomva said, there are those gaps and challenges and as a country, there were already existing issues with public health services and what we did was to repurpose the UN programming in Zimbabwe so for example, the Global Fund which has a major grant for Zimbabwe for TB, HIV and Aids and Malaria managed by UNDP was able to reprogram some of its funding to ensure the essential supplies of PB and other equipment to arrive in Zimbabwe quickly and IOM has been working very closely on the returning migrants and other agents like UNICEF have been looking at the issue of the continuity of the health services which is essential in situations like these,” she said.

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