Editor's Comment

Fast tests essential

One of the key factors in resolving an ailment is quick diagnosis.  Treatment can never be on assumptions.  It is, therefore, heart-warming that Zambia is headed in this direction in its fight against the coronavirus.
A coronavirus disease (COVID-19) prevalence survey conducted by the Ministry of Health in July this year has revealed that 1.8 million people have contracted the virus in Zambia.
The survey was conducted in Lusaka, Kabwe, Livingstone, Nakonde, Ndola and Solwezi to understand the prevalence of the pandemic in districts, among health workers and patients who visit health facilities to seek various services.
The survey had also shown that about 300,000 people in the six districts had contracted COVID-19 at that time.
Last Saturday, the Ministry of Health revealed that there is a surge in COVID-19 cases predominantly among 30-39 year-olds who may feel that they are safe from the disease.
Since the first two cases of COVID-19 were reported in the country, the Ministry of Health has been conducting targeted testing.
This is because Government could not afford to test everyone as it would be very expensive.
Only people with symptoms and their contacts are being tested as much as possible as well as the Brought-In-Dead (BIDs).
The lack of test kits and consequently lack of information on the extent of infection in the population has been one of the major drawbacks in the fight against COVID-19.
With enough test kits and mandatory testing, Government will be in a position to ascertain the amount and what kind of resources would be needed to effectively tackle the challenge.
Other than testing when someone seeks or visits a medical facility, the Ministry of Health could also undertake tests at places of work and schools.
Therefore, the planned massive roll-out for COVID-19 testing in all public health facilities should be a game-changer in the country’s effort to screen, identify and commence early interventions against the pandemic.
This is so because when the coverage of testing is broadened, it will allow more people to know whether they have the disease or not.
And for those who have the disease, they will not need to wait for their samples to be transported to central facilities where they need to wait for results.
As results will be prompt, people with the disease will commence treatment early, which is key to saving lives as Covid-19 is known to progress quickly and kill its victims if management of the cases is delayed.
The novel idea of mandatory Covid-19 tests for those reporting to health facilities seeking medical attention for other health conditions is a good strategy, too, especially that the respiratory disease is known to be more virulent to people with underlying conditions.
As such, people who may go to the hospital presenting their pre-existing conditions, but might have Covid-19, will be given a life line because tests for coronavirus will be prompt.
While testing in public health facilities is welcome, there is need to cast the net wide by having more voluntary sites in shopping malls, markets and other high density areas.
All entry points should be utilised to capture test people. It can also extend to schools and universities as big populations can be captured there.
All this, however, should be done systematically because random testing could be cause wastage of resources.
This is not a cheap effort.  Therefore, as efforts could be considered to expand testing points, residents must be targeted.
It is important, too, to remember that prevention is always better that cure.
Zambians, and other residents, must continue to adhere to health guidelines of washing hands, masking up and social distancing.



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