MINISTRY of Health Permanent Secretary for Technical Services Professor Luckson Kasonka says government has enough COVID-19 test kits but has decided to halt mass testing because some individuals had started testing for fun, which was a wastage of resources.
In an interview, Prof Kasonka said covid testing would only be accorded to individuals who presented with symptoms.
“We are dealing with many things. Malaria is around and we are still testing for it. We are still testing for TB. If we put all the resources in testing for COVID-19, what will happen to those other diseases? We will not be able to buy them. COVID-19 is still around for some time. It happened that it had become fun for people to go for covid testing. Today someone tests, after three days again they test. They would say I came into contact with someone who subsequently tested positive. So it became fun for anyone to test even two to three times a week even when there are no symptoms. So we said we will only be testing those who have got symptoms,” he said.
“We cannot manage to test everybody even if we have a lot of testing kits. That is not the right way to use resources because then we shall neglect other diseases that require testing. People now testing for fun, maybe twice or thrice a week and so on. When they just hear that someone in my family has tested positive, they come back for retesting when they had done it the previous day. So we said we will now be testing according to request. We will be testing only for those who have shown symptoms because that is the only way you will use resources prudently. Even in Europe that is what they do now. They are not testing everybody who wants to be tested. They are only testing those who have symptoms.”
Prof Kasonka insisted that government could not direct all resources to procure covid test kits at the expense of other diseases.
“So it will be unreasonable for us to just be testing anyhow because the resources will run out and we will start failing to buy test kits for other diseases. So we have not stopped mass testing because we have no test kits, we have a lot of testing agents but we do not know how long this covid will take. It may continue for several months and maybe another year. So we cannot just be testing anyone who wants to be tested because we will spend all our money just on testing kits for covid,” he said.
“There are people who have had covid without knowing and without any symptoms. So why should we waste money on testing people that may not even show signs and symptoms? That is a waste of resources. When you are in an epidemic, everyday, you make prudent decisions. That is why we do reporting everyday so that we keep changing decisions. Decisions must be based on cost because cost is very important to manage when you have a disease. You have to manage your resources so that they work for you in the future.”
Prof Kasonka said re-strategising was all in the interest of managing this pandemic.
“If you are not re-strategising everyday in a period of an epidemic you can run out of resources and fail to manage it going forward. So every day you have seat around the table. That is why you see that things and decisions change all in the interest of managing this epidemic. We must at all times manage the resources. Even in Europe that is how they do it,” said Prof Kasonka.
“In America they do not just test anybody who wants to test. You have to present symptoms then they quickly test you and then they test to understand if it is Omicron or what type of variant it is and then they treat you accordingly. If you are just going to test and finding a lot of negative tests, that is a waste of resources.”