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Zim doctors’ red flag over Covid-19 quarantine period

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By Alois Vinga


ZIMBABWEAN doctors have warned against government’s controversial slash on the mandatory period within which returning residents could be quarantined for Covid-19 before joining their families.

Cash-strapped government recently cut the period from 21 to eight days.

However, speaking under their umbrella Senior Hospital Doctors Association (SHDA), the country’s medical staff warned the decision was against scientifically proven recommendations for a minimum of 14 days quarantine.

“…We applaud the policy of mandatory testing and quarantine of all returnees coming from hot spots,” said the doctors’ group in a Thursday statement.

“We are however concerned with the reduction of the quarantine period to an effective eight days which is contrary to the scientific evidence and is outside the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommendations.”

The country’s medical practitioners argued the incubation period of the virus has been proven scientifically to be between 2 to 14 days.

“Regionally, the mandatory quarantine of individuals from hotspots is between 14 to 21 days,” said the group.

Doctors further warned lack of trained personnel who could attend to large numbers of returnees in their homes was risky.

SHDA further said the Rapid Response Tests (RTDs) being exercised on returnees were not effective as they only allowed authorities to just detect anti-bodies made by the patient in response to Covid-19 infection but did not detect the virus.

“Patients take 7 to 12 days to make antibodies, meanwhile Covid19 infected people are highly infectious during this early stage of the infection.

“Therefore, relying on the RTDs in the early phase of the infection would be inappropriate since cases of Covid19 would be missed thereby putting communities at risk of Covid19 infections,” said the senior doctors.

They argued that ideally, RTDs should be used for surveillance as opposed to diagnosis as the aim for returnees was supposed to be to diagnose.

The process is supposed to be done by the Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR).

“The Ministry should go further in enlightening the returning residents from Covid19 hotspots on the need for quarantine and have them prepared accordingly.

“There has to be provision for basic needs, food, water, accommodation.

“It is also the right of quarantined citizens to receive the right health care, social and psychological support,” SHDA said.

Authorities were also advised to desist from the habit of sharing Covid19 results on social media platforms before informing the affected patients of their status.

The doctors added, “There must be prior home visits by social workers before assigning self-isolation in homes to assess the suitability.

“The current lockdown presents an opportunity for testing to be rolled out. The private hospitals must operate in coordinated and accountable way.”