The Sunday News
Robin Muchetu/ Sukulwenkosi Dube-Matutu, Sunday News Reporters
MPILO Central Hospital in Bulawayo will tomorrow start testing for coronavirus (Covid-19) with the first samples being those of more than 400 Zimbabweans who were based in Botswana who arrived in the city yesterday.
The testing of the virus will be conducted at the National Tuberculosis Referral Laboratory which is housed at the hospital and will also cater for the two Matabeleland provinces, North and South. The centre becomes the second after the National Microbiology Reference Laboratory at the Sally Mugabe Hospital in Harare.
Officials said the centre will be able to conduct at least 300 samples per day with a turnover time of five hours and results released on the same day. In the past, samples from Bulawayo were being sent to Harare, with results taking up to four days to be released. They emphasised that only samples will be taken to Mpilo, and that people should not come to the hospital for Covid-19 testing.
A Government official said since the beginning of the month 450 Zimbabweans have been repatriated from Botswana. Botswana deported 185 undocumented Zimbabweans through Plumtree Border Post while others who were legally staying in that country voluntarily returned home. They had been quarantined at Plumtree High School since their arrival and were set to be further quarantined at Bulawayo Polytechnic and Hillside Teachers’ College upon their arrival in the city last night.
The Minister of Local Government and Public Works, Cde July Moyo, who is part of the Inter-Ministerial Taskforce on Covid-19 toured the Mpilo laboratory yesterday.
“We discussed that testing needs to be done here in Bulawayo and we are happy that Nust (National University of Science and Technology) has moved its machinery from its lab to Mpilo and it has been set up. The Minister of Health and Child Care has brought in its lab technicians who are training the technicians at Mpilo,” said Cde Moyo.
During a tour of the Mpilo laboratory technicians were doing last rounds of preparations. Some of the equipment came from Nust while other components were at the hospital being used for other tests. The equipment has since been aligned to do Covid-19 tests. Director at Nust
Applied Genetics Testing Centre Mr Zephaniah Dhlamini said they were in a position to run 300 samples alongside TB specimen sampling.
“With this machinery and equipment, we can process 300 samples a day. We will have the TB samples being run in the morning and the Covid-19 samples being run in the afternoon. If all samples arrive on time, we can take five hours to give results.
“Right now, we are ready to start, we have a team that came from the National Microbiology Reference Lab in Harare that is assisting us in training. The team also brought in protective clothing for everyone at the lab and the actual test kits and reagents,” he said.
Mpilo Hospital Chief Medical Laboratory Scientist Mrs Barbara Murwira said samples would be disposed of accordingly.
“After a sample has been processed there is a need to dispose the waste in a safe manner, friendly to the environment and also the people who are handling the sample need to be safe. The samples will be autoclaved to sterilise the virus but Mpilo’s autoclave is not functional, so Nust has offered to disconnect theirs today and bring it here for use during this period,” she said.
Earlier in the day representatives from the Government, Ekusileni Property Company (PVT) Limited, Bulawayo City Council, I am Bulawayo Fighting Covid-19 Trust, National Social Security Authority (Nssa) and Nust signed a Memorandum of agreement over the use of Ekusileni Medical Centre for the isolation of coronavirus patients.
Meanwhile, the Government has so far availed $481 million towards curbing the spread of coronavirus with plans underway to test more than
33 000 people before the end of the month countrywide.
Addressing stakeholders from Matabeleland South Province in Gwanda on Friday during a briefing by the Ad-Hoc Inter-Ministerial Taskforce on the Covid-19 outbreak, Minister of Environment, Climate, Tourism, and Hospitality Industry Cde Nqobizitha Mangaliso Ndlovu said the Ministry of Health and Child Care will intensify testing starting this week to cater for more people across the country. He added that moves to decentralise testing from Harare were at an advanced stage.
“Up to date Treasury has availed $481 100 000 towards efforts of combating Covid-19. These funds include money which has been given to tertiary institutions and other partners for production of materials, increase in grain distribution and cash transfers which have started in Bulawayo and Harare.
“Treasury also allocated $100 million through Industrial Co-operation of Zimbabwe (IDC) for water treatment chemicals. We were worried about local authority’s capacity to supply clean water and we anticipate that with these funds there will be adequate supply of water treatment chemicals. The water situation is critical because without water people will be forced to go out of their homes in search of water,” he said.
Speaking at the same meeting, Matabeleland South Provincial Medical Director, Dr Rudo Chikodzore said all districts have identified isolation facilities and work was underway to capacitate them.