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Unam lab licensed to test Covid-19 samples

2020-08-13  Albertina Nakale

Unam lab licensed to test Covid-19 samples

In the wake of increasing transmission of Covid-19 across Namibia, diamond mining giant Debmarine Namibia and the University of Namibia (Unam) have teamed up and established a laboratory that is licensed to conduct Covid-19 tests as from 3 August 2020.
The Unam molecular diagnostic laboratory is a licensed medical laboratory in terms of Section 31 of the Hospitals and Health Facilities Act 36 of 1994. 

The opening of the Covid-19 testing laboratory at the Faculty of Health Sciences at Hage Geingob Campus was launched on Tuesday.
Unam vice-chancellor Kenneth Matengu said the university now boasts two PCR machines with 10 highly trained staff members- seven from Unam and three from the health ministry. 

“We are able to clear 140 tests per day. We commit to use them to run tests, but also mine the data we collect to conduct research and make a scientific contribution to the body of knowledge that deals with fighting disease outbreaks.  This is in line with our new vision of being a sustainable international hub of excellence in higher education, training, and innovation by 2030,” Matengu noted.
Debmarine Namibia acquired a Covid-19 PCR testing machine and signed a memorandum of agreement with Unam School of Medicine to conduct tests. 

The sponsorship will support government efforts in the national fight against the Covid-19 pandemic. 
Additionally, this sponsorship supports the company’s internal focus on protecting and testing its employees as well.
Unam’s profile of science and medicine experts will run the facility for around one year, after which the ownership of the equipment will be ceded to the university. 

The PCR machine along with 10 000 testing kits is valued at more than N$3.6 million and will play a vital role in the turnaround time for results as it is expected to analyse about 250 samples per day. 
Unam spokesperson John Haufiku said the establishment of the testing laboratory at Unam’s Hage Geingob campus will increase the diagnostic and prognostic testing process of Covid-19 and complement efforts by the Namibia Institute of Pathology (NIP) and accelerate the country’s testing capacity. 

NIP helped Unam acquire the licence by guiding them through the strict licensing process. 
Debmarine Namibia CEO Otto Shikongo committed the company to do everything it can to protect its employees and the surrounding communities. “We value the health and safety of our people above all else and are equally committed to delivering support to our country throughout this difficult period. We aim to keep our operations running safely, and to proactively support and supplement efforts of the government,” remarked Shikongo. 

 “This great contribution by Debmarine Namibia will offer Unam medical students real-time clinical opportunities that will benefit the country’s only locally trained medical doctors phenomenally,” remarked Matengu.
The PCR machine came with fully equipped laboratory equipment such as fridges, freeze samples, cabinets with ultra-violet to prep the specimens and centrifuge machines, and so forth. 

For the past two weeks, the new PCR machine underwent stringent government and World Health Organisation validation processes. “The Unam laboratory team responsible for operating the testing machine have been trained by experts to increase local capacity,” remarked Debmarine Namibia’s Strategic Project Portfolio Manager, Danie van Aswegen. He added that the company tried its level best to make sure that the laboratory is fully equipped and ready.

2020-08-13  Albertina Nakale

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