By Mary Taruvinga
THE Community Working Group on Health (CWGH) has described as unfair the steep prices that some private health facilities are charging individuals for COVID-19 tests.
Investigations by NewZimbabwe.com showed that some private medical health centres were demanding up to US$25 per person for a COVID-19 test.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa last week extended the lockdown by a further 14-days but allowed industry and commerce to resume operations while complying with set health guidelines to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
Some of the guidelines include tests for the coronavirus for all employees returning to work, wearing of face masks by all people in public spaces, and maintenance of social distancing.
However, taking advantage of the new government guidelines, some health facilities with testing machines have steeply hiked their prices, a move which has been strongly condemned by CWGH director, Itai Rusike as most of the test kits were donated equipment.
“Zimbabwe’s poorly resourced COVID-19 response is inevitably shifting the burden to the most vulnerable and precarious people, households and businesses,” he said.
Rusike also described as draconian, the rule to force people to wear face masks when they leave their homes. The government has announced a 12-month prison sentence for anyone caught in public without a face mask.
The CWGH director said the public and other stakeholders should not be mere bystanders when the government was announcing COVID-19 decisions.
“They need to be informed about the decisions and make sense of how to implement them, to plan for the pandemic and its impact on their own lives and work.
“So for the general public in Zimbabwe to have trust and support for any strategy for the next phases of the COVID-19 response, calls for a multi-sector taskforce to engage stakeholder and community representatives through genuinely open deliberative processes,” he said.
Rusike said the government’s decision on measures taken on the lockdown should have explicitly addressed how different interests and risks were being balanced.
Contacted for a comment, Health Ministry secretary, Agnes Mahomva said she could not make a comment as she was in a meeting.