Robin Muchetu, Senior Reporter
THE Covid-19 scourge has hit the globe like a gangrene. Its effects are seismic in all spheres of human endeavour, be they political, economical and social with governments putting in place measures to ensure the safety of citizens especially those who are working after realising that they can’t continue on lockdown indefinitely.

One of the measures put in place by the Government is for employees to get tested but many people have at one point asked themselves how a coronavirus test is conducted, is it a painful procedure, how long does it take and so on. Some even imagine that it is a horrific procedure that may need you to be sedated. While free testing is only limited to people who are suspected to have the virus, Sunday News got details of how an actual test is conducted by the Rapid Response Teams (RRT) available.

Sunday News senior reporter Robin Muchetu (RM) spoke to the Bulawayo City Council’s Director of Health Services Dr Edwin Sibanda (Dr Sibanda) who outlined the process.

RM: How is a Covid-19 specimen taken, what are the processes that are done? Are blood or saliva samples taken?

Dr Sibanda: Testing is preceded by collection of one’s demographic details that is the name, age, sex, address etecetera. Thereafter a symptom screen to ascertain if they were exposed to Covid-19 or not and if exposed how long before date of testing is done. The specimen swab and transport media are then labelled correctly making sure the request form and sample bear the correct details. The member of the

RRT team who collects the sample then dons the appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and collects the sample by inserting the swab into the nostril of the client, usually the larger or more open nostril.

RM: Is it a painless test? What can one expect when they are to be tested?

Dr Sibanda: The test is largely painless although there is minimal discomfort.

RM: How soon can one have their results once they are tested?

Dr Sibanda: The Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) that is done at the laboratory spends a minimum of five hours in the machines. The machine takes up to 80 samples per run, adding the preparation time of samples, the whole cycle is roughly eight hours. As samples need to be transported to the laboratory, the time taken can best be calculated from the time the sample reaches the laboratory. Assuming that there are no delays one day is the average time.

RM: How can employers get their employees tested for Covid-19 now that it is mandatory? What processes have to be done in order to have health officials visiting their workplaces? Please give details or specifications of the kind of area the team will want to conduct their tests?

Dr Sibanda: The recommended screening test is the rapid test which utilises a drop of blood much like the malaria and HIV test. This test as the name suggests gives results within minutes (10-15). The requirements for testing workers are outlined in the relevant statutory instrument.

Companies procure test kits and arrange with the Health Services Department to get their workers tested. Those with more than 40 workers invite the Health Services Department staff to test the workers at company premises while those with less are requested to ensure that their employees report to the nearest health centre to be tested.

RM: How much does it cost per individual to get tested for coronavirus?

Dr Sibanda: The cost of the test depends on the cost of the kit and where it is sourced. But test kits that are currently in use by the RRT are sourced from the Government at no cost to people being tested, who are contacts of people who would have tested positive or those showing symptoms. The RRT does not just test anyone unless that person meets the criterion.

(Those who wish to be tested at private facilities meet the costs of the procedure.)