The Econet group has imported 100 000 COVID-19 test kits for use in testing critical target groups such as essential services staff and the elderly and vulnerable, as Zimbabwe enters its seventh week under a national lockdown imposed by the government in efforts to curb the spread of the deadly Coronavirus.
Announcing the development, the group's Cassava Smartech Zimbabwe CEO Mr Eddie Chibi - whose health business unit, Maisha (which houses MARS Ambulance Services, Maisha Health Fund and Maisha Medik) has been investing in testing solutions - said the group's commercial entities had partnered with Higherlife Foundation to bring in the much-needed test kits. He said the testing will be conducted by Maisha Testing, a business unit under Maisha.
"We are pleased to announce that we have imported 100 000 COVID-19 test kits to be used for testing our own staff, individuals and corporates across Zimbabwe," he said. The corporates will pay a fee for the testing of their staff, which can be done on-site or off-site, said Mr Chibi.
To accelerate the testing process, Mr Chibi said Maisha had developed a franchise model, through which service providers approved by the Ministry of Health and Child Care will be issued with testing kits and personal protective equipment (PPE) for free, for them to conduct testing - subject to them fulfilling certain conditions, such as training and information management.
He added that the Group would also be offering FREE testing to certain marginalised communities around the country through its partnership with Higherlife Foundation.
Speaking about the distribution plan of the imported test kits to disadvantaged communities, Higherlife Foundation CEO Dr Kennedy Mubaiwa said the Foundation would be rolling out FREE testing to vulnerable citizens.
"We will be targeting vulnerable groups both in urban high-density and rural locations, as well as to beneficiaries already supported by our Foundation, which includes those in retirement and children's homes, as well as pregnant women's shelters," said Dr Mubaiwa, adding that specific "high-risk groups", such as the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions, would also be targeted. Mobile testing centres will be set-up in these communities for the citizen's convenience.
Commenting on the importation of the test kits, Cassava Healthtech Chief Operating Officer, Mr Denver Phiri said investing in testing solutions in order to be able to test, isolate, treat and trace contacts to curb the spread of COVID-19 was a key recommendation of the World Health Organization (WHO).
He said the group's countrywide testing plan would be achieved through Maisha's emergency services operational arm MARS, which has 10 bases across the country and 30 critical care ambulances.
"To achieve fairly rapid testing across the country, we will engage the participation of our Maisha Medik network of 600 health service providers, who are already dotted around the country," Mr Phiri said, adding that