Government has warned individuals, private organisations and pharmacies that are selling unapproved Covid-19 rapid test kits that do not comply with Ministry of Health and Child Care, and World Health Organisation (WHO) specifications and protocols, saying such tests may produce erroneous results.
Private companies and some pharmacies have been selling unapproved rapid Covid-19 test kits online in Zimbabwe.
Speaking to The Herald yesterday, Health and Child Care Minister Dr Obadiah Moyo said the sale of these unregistered kits was illegal and whoever is involved in such has to stop immediately as all rapid test kits have to be initially evaluated for their specificity and sensitivity by the National Micro Biology Reference Laboratory.
"It has come to our attention that there are a number of individuals, organisations and pharmacies that are selling unregistered coronavirus test kits.
"As Government, we strongly condemn this because these organisations are not following the WHO laid down specifications," said Dr Moyo.
Dr Moyo said plans were underway to have testing centres across the country's 10 provinces and at all border posts.
"We are setting up coronavirus testing centres in each province, down to the districts as well as all border entry points. These will be manned by our trained health officials and it will come a long way in detecting Covid-19."
The minister reiterated that the ministry will follow the WHO protocol of testing those who fall within the case definition of the coronavirus as well as testing those who would have travelled from Covid-19 affected countries and their contacts.
However, individuals who want to confirm their Covid-19 status are not restricted and can be tested at registered healthcare facilities that utilise approved Covid-19 testing systems.
"The practice of being tested at unregistered facilities poses the danger of coming up with inaccurate results. As an example, if someone erroneously tests negative while in actual fact they are positive they will then spread the virus thinking that they are safe until their clinical picture changes."
"Likewise if someone erroneously tests positive through use of unapproved rapid test kits, they will be put in a situation where they will be unnecessarily psychologically affected and labelled as a Covid-19 carrier and will end up following unnecessary clinical management protocols."
"There is talk that our figures (of people) who have been tested are low as compared to other countries. We are testing only those presenting with symptoms synonymous with coronavirus case definition."
Currently, the Government is using a testing protocol referred to as polymerase (PCR) chain reaction methods which takes at least five hours for the results to come out.
This is however, the gold standard and definitive method.
The ministry has finalised the mapping of testing centres which will see the whole country being availed with Covid-19 testing facilities down to district level.
The Covid-19 testing algorithm will normally allow for initial rapid testing and if someone tests positive, their sample will be sent for testing utilising the PCR method.