MEDICAL expert Dr Aaron Mujajati has advised Parliament to take the necessary precautions in avoiding the spread of COVID-19 as they plan to reconvene next month.

And Dr Mujajati says there is need to increase private health facilities’ participation in testing for COVID-19 to enhance the fight against the virus as it is evident that government’s limited capacity has been overwhelmed.

In an interview, Dr Mujajati urged the National Assembly to consider rescheduling next month’s re-opening to October or ensure that all proceedings were conducted virtually.

“For me, if they are going to meet like they way they were meeting last time, I would advise that they proceed with a lot of caution. If, indeed, Parliament must open and that it is inevitable to open and there is no other way, then let them consider meeting virtually. Let them consider a virtual meeting and I want to believe that Smart Zambia would have a solution to that. I want to believe that if they engage Smart Zambia, and I want to believe that Smart Zambia has the capacity and probably expertise to be able to make that possible that Parliament can convene in a virtual way. I feel very strongly that if it is a must and it can’t not be avoided, it cannot be postponed then let them consider a virtual meeting. Especially looking at what happened within Parliament not so long ago where you had a lot of people testing positive, we also had some deaths. I would strongly advise that they proceed with caution, especially that the meeting cannot be postponed,” Dr Mujajati urged.

“If it can be postponed, I would suggest that they probably wait and observe and see how the month of September will go in terms of numbers and probably convene in October. If the law does not allow, and it’s something that cannot change, it’s cast in stone and it is inevitable that it must happen and that Parliament cannot reschedule, let them look at the possibility of meeting virtually, because we are under very extenuating circumstances and I want to believe that there should be some provision that would allow Parliament to meet virtually. I strongly recommend extraordinary measures. You can see COVID-19 is really spreading and for Parliament to open if it can’t be avoided, let them meet virtuality; if it can be avoided, let them reschedule or postpone.”

And Dr Mujajati said there was need to increase private testing facilities to help in the testing of COVID-19, as evidenced by how government health facilities were overwhelmed.

“The cases are on the rise, deaths are on the rise, hospital admissions are on the rise and the capacity to test for the Ministry (of Health) and government in general is not very strong. Remember, they told us that they have a backlog of more than 2,000 tests that are not yet tested. It tells you that we are overstretched! That is why I was advocating for private sector participation in testing, let us allow more private sector facilities to participate in testing because a backlog of 2,000 tests is too much because the question you should ask yourselves: the owners of those samples, where are they? Are there some people in that batch of 2,000, who are positive and who have continued to transmit to other people? The possibility is yes,” said Dr Mujajati.

“We need to have more private sector facilities participating in testing and the reason I am advocating is that people have argued that the private sector is expensive; the reason it is expensive is that you have only allowed two facilities to do it. If you increase the number of facilities that are testing, it would really help in reducing the price. It is simple economics: the demand is high, the supply is less, the prices will stay up. Clearly, government is overstretched, having a backlog of 2,000 is too much, that is why I am saying, allow more private facilities to participate, allow more private labs to participate. All they need to do is to work out the guidelines and they have capacity among regulators to work out those guidelines. In terms of testing, we need to really ramp up our capacity. Leaving it to government is not a very good strategy, resources are limited because government resources are needed elsewhere. Health is not the only thing government looks after, even if we are under COVID-19, resources are limited.”