Amplified use of rapid tests proves advantageous in diagnosing Covid-19 in Zimbabwe

The expanded use of rapid antigen diagnostic tests has helped widen reach to remote areas.

Since the implementation of rapid diagnostic testing in November 2020, Zimbabwe has managed to boost its Covid-19 diagnostic capacity, reaching a rate of 4000 daily tests. At first, tests were only carried out in a large laboratory in the capital using the standard Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) testing. These were later distributed to the provinces. Even then, the situation proved ineffective due to lengthy Turn-Around Times (TAT) for test results and scarcities in reagent supplies due to the global demand. Distribution of Rapid Diagnostic Tests (RDTs) to clinics in the rural areas proved to be much more efficient as results are received within 20-30 minutes - a welcomed improvement compared to the TAT typically seen for PCR tests.

RDTs detect Covid-19 viral proteins, especially viral antigens. An enormous advantage of the tests is that they are easy to use and do not require laboratories or expensive equipment. The RDTs have also proven effective in adjuvant treatment, contact tracing, surveillance, and outbreak investigation. Approximately 600 testing sites were established, and more than 1,800 health workers were trained to perform the tests. Emphasis is placed on training and upskilling of local healthcare workers especially in remote areas without laboratories or laboratory personnel, to improve coverage and testing capabilities. To date, the country has conducted more than 121,000 RDTs and 390,000 PCR tests. Since the pandemic broke, Zimbabwe has reported nearly 40,000 infections and just over 1,500 deaths.