By Robert Tapfumaneyi
HIGH costs for Covid-19 tests have left poor communities in rural areas unable to access the service, opposition leader Nelson Chamisa, has said before calling on the government to intervene and roll-out free screening in the countryside.
Rural communities have not been spared from the surge in new coronavirus infections and deaths.
However, addressing Zimbabweans on his Facebook page last week on the Covid-19 virus, Chamisa also called for a reduction in the cost of health services including Covid-19 tests.
“People can’t afford to pay US$65 just for testing. People can’t afford to be admitted into hospitals for US$2000 to about US$5 000 particularly those with serious conditions,” Chamisa said.
“We must decentralise testing and a roll-out of free testing for rural areas must be provided. Growth points, townships must be centres of testing, including all clinics and hospitals across our country.”
The MDC Alliance president accused the government of making a fatal mistake when it reopened the country’s borders to allow Zimbabweans living and working in Diaspora to visit families during last festive season.
He suspects some of the travellers fake Covid-19 certificates to enter Zimbabwe and are behind the current spike in new Covid-19 infections and deaths.
“With people coming into Zimbabwe for the festive season, which in my view was an error we made a mistake, because the festive season was a super spreader.
“We could have used other methods to make sure that our borders were not porous and not allow reports of invalid or fake Covid-19 certificates to wreak havoc in our communities. There is a likelihood the new strain may have been imported from other countries so we need to be able to deal with this,” Chamisa added.
He claimed that from the highly informed reports he is receiving from local health experts; a new Covid-19 variant was now in Zimbabwe.
“Health professionals are reporting different presentations between the first wave and the current wave of infections as well as high rate of false negative results on PCR tests.
“This is an indicator that we may be dealing with a different strain of the Covid-19 virus. There is need for us to conduct tests or through the help of other countries like our neighbouring South Africa, and Botswana if we cannot conduct the genetic testing of the virus to ascertain what type of a virus are we dealing with.”