Zimbabwean government launches home-based COVID-19 testing study to identify hotspots

A medical worker checks the temperature of a student at Gateway Secondary school in Harare, Zimbabwe, on Sept. 15, 2020. (Photo by Shaun Jusa/Xinhua)
A medical worker checks the temperature of a student at Gateway Secondary school in Harare, Zimbabwe, on Sept. 15, 2020. (Photo by Shaun Jusa/Xinhua)

The Zimbabwe government on Sunday set to roll out a nationwide community-based COVID-19 testing study which will pinpoint and inform the deployment of tailor-made responses for specified communities.

This would be done as part of a number of measures to respond to a possible second wave of the pandemic, as the country has been recording an increase in the number of new infections lately.

Individuals in more than 7,000 households will be screened for the virus in all the 54 districts under the National Sero-Prevalence Survey for COVID-19, which will run up to December 30.

The National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) will test nearly 4,600 individuals in rural households.

NIHR director Nicholas Midzi said that only one person would be tested per household.

The study would help authorities draw up specialized interventions targeting specific communities to curb the spread of the contagion at the local level, he added.

“The tests will inform the authorities of the extent to which the COVID-19 has spread, including the high and low transmission areas as well as coming up with the necessary interventions required for each area,” he said.

“We have already identified the households and only one individual will be tested per each household. We will target all age groups starting from two-year-old,” he said.

He added that training of health workers was underway with testing starting beginning of the week.

“We will determine the presence of COVID-19 through testing for antibodies, which will show whether an individual would have been infected. Further tests will be administered to confirm the initial test,” he said.

Chief Coordinator for the National Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic in the Office of the President and Cabinet Agnes Mahomva said a recent government survey had shown that most communities were no longer adhering to standard preventative guidelines.

“We have noticed that people are no longer adhering to the standard guidelines, which include wearing masks, washing hands frequently and social distancing,” she said.

“A recent survey showed that most people know about COVID-19. However, we found that most people believe that they only have a 24 percent chance of contracting the disease and this is very disturbing,” she added.

“So the next survey will show us areas where we need to look at and the response areas that need to be strengthened,” she said.

More than 100 pupils and teachers at John Tallach High School in Matabeleland North Province tested positive to COVID-19 last week, prompting authorities to dispatch experts to investigate the outbreak.

Another 10 positive cases were recorded at two polytechnic colleges.

Mahomva said the government would consider tightening operating guidelines at learning institutions in order to avert similar outbreaks elsewhere.

“We have dispatched a team to investigate how the learners at John Tallach were infected.

“This will help us in fine-tuning the Standard Operating Guidelines in schools,” she said.

She added, however, that the existing guidelines were enough to protect learners and teachers from the pandemic if properly and constantly implemented.

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