Rwanda: Govt 'Considers' Using HIV Labs for COVID-19 Testing

A Community health agent conducts an HIV/AIDS test (file photo).

The Government is working on a plan that will see laboratories that normally test for HIV used to test COVID-19 patients, the Director-General of Rwanda Biomedical Centre (RBC), Dr Sabin Nsanzimana, has said.

Providing an update on the country's COVID-19 testing capacity, Nsanzimana said that while RBC has been testing more than 1,000 people a day, efforts are underway to create facilities where more tests can be conducted.

"While the equipment we had in the laboratory has doubled since the pandemic started, the number of those who need to be tested increases every day. We started testing people with symptoms, then we added the contact people. We are preparing the equipment we have that test HIV in different provinces and soon we will be using it," he said.

Nsanzimana says that laboratories all over the world, just like in Rwanda, are on a constant mission to do better. This he said was also coupled with the country's need to move the laboratories closer to the people.

"There is no country that can confidently tell you that they have enough fully equipped. Our laboratories are growing in terms of capacity in terms of human resource and equipment. We are also planning to take the laboratories closer to the people without necessarily having to wait for everything to come to the national lab," he said.

Preparing more centres

Nsanzimana said that preparations to increase the number of centres that can receive patients in addition to Kanyinya in case the need arises are also in the pipeline.

With the partial lifting of the lockdown, he said that the government is doing everything possible to be ready in case there is a spike in the numbers of the infected.

"We cannot afford to have patients without enough facilities. We have a team that reviews the numbers and then suggest the next steps in terms of whether we need to open a new site or close another," he said.

According to Rwanda Biomedical Centre's data portal, 13 districts have each recorded at least one confirmed case of the novel coronavirus, with the 17 others virus-free.

Kirehe and Bugesera districts accounted for the highest number of the coronavirus infections as of early Wednesday, May 6, with 101 and 47 cases respectively.

Meanwhile, only nine people above 60 have so far been found to have contracted COVID-19 while 16 are aged 50-59. Fifty-one are in the range of 40-49. Those aged 30-39 are the majority, at 103, while 68 cases are people aged 20-29. Fourteen are under the age of 20.

A government survey, which concluded that there were no community infections in Rwanda, resulted in the authorities easing a six-week-long lockdown on Monday, May 4, but with a series of tough restrictions.

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