Sukulwenkosi Dube-Matutu, Gwanda Correspondent
MATABELELAND South Province has started polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests for Covid-19 in Beitbridge, Plumtree and Gwanda using GeneXpert machines as part of Government’s efforts to decentralise testing.
Covid-19 PCR testing for the province was being done at the National TB Reference Laboratory at Mpilo Central Hospital in Bulawayo with only rapid diagnostic tests (RDT) being done in Matabeleland South Province.
The RDT is done to screen Covid-19 cases. If the specimen was positive it was then referred to Bulawayo for a confirmation through a PCR test.
During his recent visit to Matabeleland South Vice President Kembo Mohadi said health facilities across the country had GeneXpert machines which could be used for Covid-19 testing and Government was making efforts to acquire cartridges that would be distributed for the machines to be utilised.
GeneXpert devices were widely deployed about a decade ago to rapidly detect tuberculosis, including multi-drug resistant strains. The machines have since been adapted to enable rapid testing of many pathogens, including influenza, ebola and sexually transmitted infections.
In an interview, Matabeleland South Provincial Medical Director Dr Rudo Chikodzore said GeneXpert machines in Plumtree, Beitbridge and Gwanda had been configured and the three districts were now conducting PCR tests.
“We now have three districts able to conduct PCR testing using the GeneXpert machines namely Plumtree, Beitbridge and Gwanda. This commenced last weekend. The province has a total of 11 GeneXpert machines and so far five have been configured. Three are in Plumtree while Beitbridge and Gwanda have one each,” she said.
“The province last weekend received 275 GeneXpert cartridges and we are expecting to receive another 650 more this week. Of the 275 that we have received 25 went to Gwanda, 150 to Beitbridge and 100 went to Plumtree. Now that we are able to conduct tests in these three districts the turn around time has been reduced as we are able to do the tests and have results on the following day unlike before when we had to send our samples to Bulawayo for testing.”
Dr Chikodzore said the province is handling a lot of returnees that are coming through Beitbridge and Plumtree Border Posts that need to be tested before being released from quarantine centres.
She said the province continued to receive PPE from NatPharm and other partners though in short supply given the numbers of people handled especially at the ports of entry and quarantine centres.
Dr Chikodzore said there was need for consistent supply of PPE through NatPharm.
“As a province we have received 395 protective gowns against a target of 2 370, a total of 3 335 pairs of protective gloves against a target of 20 010, a total of 33 250 boxes of surgical masks against 199 500, a total of 210 protective suits against a target of 2 520,” she said.
“We also received 210 goggles against a target of 2 520, a total of 3 060 boxes of N95 masks against a target of 18 360. We also received 1 550 face shields against 9 300, a total of 11 000 theatre caps against a target of 66 000, a total of 83 thermo scanners against a target of 498 and 305 gumboots out of 1 830.”
Dr Chikodzore said these have all been distributed to various districts according to need.
said the province had also received more than 7 000 rapid diagnostic test kits which had been distributed with the two border towns of Plumtree and Beitbridge getting more.