Health minister Dr Kalumbi Shangula has expressed concern over the mushrooming use of unauthorised and unreliable Covid-19 test kits in the country.
The antigen detection rapid diagnostic test (Ag-RDT) directly detects viral proteins or antigen of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, in respiratory samples using a method of lateral flow immunoassay.
“As announced before, only rapid test kits approved and validated may be used. We have received information that testing is taking place in hotel rooms, homes and various other places. This is a point of serious concern,” Shangula remarked during the Covid-19 briefing last week.
Therefore, Shangula said the ministry has established compliance committees in all regions to look into this worrisome situation in order to curb it as it has the potential of distorting data and reporting on key indicators of monitoring the pandemic and the country’s capacity to combat the spread of the disease.
He also said unreliable test kits have the potential to interfere with other pandemic control measures.
For the past five months, the University of Namibia (Unam) has been conducting genome sequencing as part of surveillance efforts to identify emerging variants of concern in the country.
The turn-around time for genome sequencing at Unam is two weeks.
However, Shangula announced the country continues to send additional specimen for genome sequencing to South Africa due to limited capacity in terms of volumes of specimens that can be processed by Unam per week.
“We observed a decline in the demand for testing at all approved 16 laboratories and none of the laboratories have reported any backlog,” he said.
On the vaccination campaign, Shangula said community engagement and mobilisation has been intensified.
A vaccination communication campaign was recently launched by Prime Minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila to sensitise the public on the importance of getting vaccinated against the virulent pandemic, which has claimed over 3 200 lives thus far.
According to the latest statistics, only 78 313 Namibians have received their second dose, while 185 304 have received their first dose. The country is aiming to vaccinate at least 1.5 million Namibians or 60% of the population to realise herd immunity against the coronavirus.
The country recently received 75 000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine donated by the Netherlands government.
Shangula dispelled misinformation about the quality of the donated vaccine, confirming the ministry is in possession of all relevant documentation for these doses.
“The batches of the vaccines were cleared by the Dutch government and assessed by the pharmaceutical department of the ministry of health before distribution to regions. All batches are within the expiration dates, meaning they have not expired or spoiled,” he defended.
Shangula also announced the procurement process of 350 000 additional doses of the Chinese-made Sinopharm vaccine was progressing well and is anticipated to be finalised this week.
Once completed, he said, doses will be delivered in September.
“We are in discussions with the Covax facility and the manufacturer for the delivery of the 302 000 Johnson & Johnson donated by the government of the United States of America. We will keep the nation informed,” he said.