Editor's Comment

Prosecute those behind fake COVID tests

THE delicate and complicated nature of conducting coronavirus tests and diagnosis dictates that it is done by specialised medical experts with the aid of special medical kit.
And as rightly pointed out by Minister of Health Chilufya Chitalu, Government has designated health facilities that are accredited to conduct COVID-19 tests.
“The centres where we conduct the tests are well known, we have the COVID centre at Levy, the COVID centre at University Teaching Hospital, Medland Private Hospital and Centre for Infectious Diseases Research in Zambia laboratories.
Besides these designated centres, Government has also commissioned identifiable health experts who go round communities to conduct COVID screening.
The reason for designated COVID test centres and medical personnel to conduct tests is because not every medical centre or expert has what it takes or the necessary knowhow to handle the tests.
We know that currently even the number of tests done in Zambia is very low compared to the population owing to limited testing kits.
It is, however, saddening that some questionable medical institutions and experts have seen an opportunity in this gap by offering unauthorised tests.
They are also taking advantage of the gullibility of members of the public who are scared to death at every flu-like symptom and, therefore, turn to any institution for COVID tests to ascertain their medical status.
These medical institutions, better than anybody else, should understand the serious implications of conducting COVID tests using unauthenticated medical kits and untrained medical personnel.
It is not only unethical but a serious affront to the fight against COVID to deceive people with fake test results.
Whichever way one looks at it, it is highly irresponsible to tell someone that they are COVID-negative when in fact not and the other way round.
Due to the use of unauthenticated and faulty medical kits, there is a high likelihood that people who are positive will be found negative. This is because the kits used may not be of the required standard to be able to detect the virus.
If people are found to be negative when positive, instead of going into quarantine and seeking medication, they will continue interacting closely and carelessly, especially with close family members.
This puts more people at risk of not only contracting the disease but also spreading it further, thereby exacerbating the situation.
Even in cases where one is found to be positive by the default tests when they are in actual fact negative, this has potential to injure them mentally. In some instances, people can die of mental shock. The stress close relations are likely to suffer at the fake reports is enormous.
Needless to say, those conducting these fake tests are a danger to society and a menace to the medical profession.
It is worrying that medical institutions who are better placed to understand the grave consequences of conducting unreliable tests are the ones in the forefront perpetuating the illegality for the love of money.
Such should not be allowed to continue practising because their focus is on money as opposed to saving lives to which they committed under oath.
These medical institutions should be investigated further and if found guilty, their practising licences must be revoked and proprietors prosecuted immediately.
The fact that there are people seeking testing services from these undesignated institutions is evidence of the need for more sensitisation.
There is need to ensure that people know where to seek testing services in an event they suspect that they are positive.
People also need to be aware that they can contact medical experts on a toll free line – 909 – to be tested for COVID at their premises if they suspect infection.
There is need to continue building momentum around sensitisation and prevention of the disease considering that more cases have continued to be recorded with more lives lost.
Yesterday, the minister announced 32 deaths and 182 cases recorded in 24 hours.
This is a gloomy picture of the situation on the ground.
At such a time, stakeholders cannot afford to start pulling in different directions.
There is need for all to put heads together to fight the pandemic. The country cannot afford to have medical institutions sabotaging the fight against COVID-19 by conducting shoddy tests.
Similarly, at this point, it is unreasonable for bar owners to demand the re-opening of their facilities.
Surely, do bar owners need someone to explain to them the state of affairs? One would expect that they are in touch with what is happening on the ground – the number of cases and deaths the country continues to record on a daily basis.
We do not expect Government to cave in to the demands of bar and night club owners, who have threatened to go on a protest.
Government has a bigger responsibility to safeguard the life of every Zambian, including bar owners themselves, who are being cantankerous.

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