Econet has imported 100 000 Covid-19 rapid test kits for critical target groups such as essential services staff and the elderly, as Zimbabwe enters its seventh week under a national lockdown.
The development comes as more private sector players are in the process of importing test kits to comply with the Government directive that companies that reopened under the relaxed regulations, must test all their employees.
Companies were given 14 days from last Wednesday, while others will be treated depending on their circumstances.
Cassava Smartech Zimbabwe CEO Mr Eddie Chibi — whose health business unit, Maisha (which houses MARS Ambulance Services, Maisha Health Fund and Maisha Medik) has been investing in testing solutions — said the group’s commercial entities had partnered with Higherlife Foundation to bring in the much-needed test kits.
He said the testing will be conducted by Maisha Testing, a business unit under Maisha.
“We are pleased to announce that we have imported 100 000 Covid-19 test kits to be used for testing our own staff, individuals and corporates across Zimbabwe,” he said.
Corporates will pay a fee for the testing of their staff, which can be done on-site or off-site.
To accelerate the testing process, Mr Chibi said Maisha had developed a franchise model, through which service providers approved by the Ministry of Health and Child Care will be issued with testing kits and personal protective equipment (PPE) for free, for them to conduct testing, subject to them fulfilling conditions such as training and information management.
The group will also be offering free testing to certain marginalised communities around the country through its partnership with Higherlife Foundation.
Higherlife Foundation CEO Dr Kennedy Mubaiwa said they will be rolling out free testing to vulnerable citizens.
“We will be targeting vulnerable groups both in urban high-density and rural locations, as well as to beneficiaries already supported by our foundation, which includes those in retirement and children’s homes, as well as pregnant women’s shelters,” said Dr Mubaiwa.
He added that specific “high-risk groups” such as the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions would be targeted.
Mobile testing centres will be set-up in the communities for the citizens’ convenience.
Cassava Healthtech chief operating officer, Mr Denver Phiri, said investing in testing solutions in order to be able to test, isolate, treat and trace contacts to curb the spread of Covid-19 was a key recommendation of the World Health Organisation (WHO).
He said the group’s countrywide testing plan would be achieved through Maisha’s emergency services operational arm MARS, which has 10 bases across the country and 30 critical care ambulances.
“To achieve fairly rapid testing across the country, we will engage the participation of our Maisha Medik network of 600 health service providers, who are already dotted around the country,” said Mr Phiri.
Last week, Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce (ZNCC) chief executive Mr Takunda Mugaga said they had approached suppliers in South Africa and India for test kits, adding that the prices were lower than those demanded by local suppliers.
“We have made significant strides in sourcing kits with South Africa and India being the source markets; we are still on the negotiation stages with our suppliers regarding the logistics given cargo is not easily available for every business which needs it.
“We are expecting to land them at cheaper rates and sell them in an affordable model to our membership. It’s our belief also that we will not promote strict seeking of the kits in US dollar only as we had witnessed with some players in Harare, only accepting the greenback to transact,” said Mr Mugaga.
The Ministry of Health and Child Care will help organise the times and places for testing of workers if contacted by employers.