NUST stops Covid-19 testing over govt failure to provide consumables

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By Mbekezeli Ncube

THE National University of Science and Technology’s (NUST) Applied Genetics Testing Centre has since stopped offering COVID-19 testing services at Bulawayo’s Mpilo Central Hospital citing incapacitation and insufficient medical equipment from government.

NUST established a PCR testing centre at the city’s referral hospital a few weeks ago, joining hands with the National Tuberculosis Reference Laboratory where they took their machines and staff to do the COVID-19 testing.

Director for NUST’s Applied Genetics Testing Centre (AGTC), Zephaniah Dlamini said the state-owned university has been using its own equipment to contribute towards successful testing but it is becoming a challenge now that their equipment was running out.

“We never received any consumables to conduct our tests and we have been providing those from NUST.

“So far we have done over 3000 tests using resources from NUST and we have since run out of these and as a result, we are currently not doing the throughput that we are capable of doing.

“It is a very dire situation that we do not have the materials that we use for testing and we have engaged with officials from the Ministry of Health and I hope they will expedite the procurement of these materials so that we can work efficiently,” said Dlamini

NUST is capable of doing 350 PCR tests per day but the equipment left has now been reserved for urgent cases.

The urgent cases include those of people who are either on detention or in hospitals suspected to be having the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dlamini also said they were overwhelmed with the work as they were also serving other clients outside the country.

“We have a unique situation in that we are testing people from the Matabeleland region, Masvingo, Beitbridge where citizens come from South Africa in large numbers and we get like 300 samples a day.

“We also have people in quarantine centres in Plumtree and Victoria Falls so we are overwhelmed with samples, we really cannot afford to have these delays,” Dlamini said.

AGTC is a stand-alone business unit of NUST which generates income through DNA testing for paternity and human identification.

However, all those operations have stopped due to NUST’s involvement in COVID-19 testing.