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EXPLAINER: COVID-19 tests in use in Namibia

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With infections rising in parts of Namibia through July 2020 many people still don’t understand what tests are locally used to establish coronavirus infection.

Various aspects of testing for the SARS-CoV-2 virus have become elevated in public discussion throughout the month of July 2020 as the cases sharply increased in the coastal Erongo Region and as it became clear that Namibian authorities were struggling to cope with the rapid surge in infections.

In July 2020 it was reported that a backlog had built up in processing coronavirus tests and that the state’s primary testing agency, the Namibia Institute of Pathology (NIP), was under-staffed, under-equipped and lacked enough testing sites. Early in the month it was reported that because of the backlog in processing tests, people in quarantine were being confined for longer than the prescribed 14 days.

By late July 2020, despite claims of progressing in clearing the backlog by NIP and health authorities, it was still evident that Namibian authorities were struggling to provide test results for many within a reasonable period.

What tests are in use in Namibia?

Regarding the tests used to determine SARS-CoV-2 infection in Namibia, on 9 July 2020, the Ministry of Health and Social Services (MoHSS) issued a statement, which read:

“The tests currently in use in Namibia are the polymerase chain reaction (PCR)-based assays only, and these are both purchased and donated through various international organizations and companies. All of the tests currently in use have been investigated by independent international experts and verified in Namibia to ensure the tests are quality assured and safe for use.”

– MoHSS

The ministry added:

“It should be underscored that the testing kits, in the form of the reagents used on our testing platforms both by NIP and private sector laboratories, are safe and quality-assured for use. They are currently in use in multiple countries worldwide and are validated for use by the World Health Organization and other international authorities.”

– MoHSS

On it’s COVID-19 web portal, the World Health Organisation (WHO) briefly describes a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test as follows:

“Molecular testing, or PCR testing, detects genetic material of the virus and so can detect if a person is currently infected with the COVID-19 virus (SARS-CoV-2). The full genomic sequence of the virus was shared by Chinese authorities in early January, which enabled many laboratories to develop PCR assays that are now used to detect cases all over the world.”

– WHO

For more detailed and technical information on PCR testing and testing protocols advised by the WHO, browse here or here for PCR testing.

What the MoHSS statement of 9 July 2020 also made clear was:

“Any suggestion that rapid test kits are being used in Namibia are incorrect. The rapid test kits donated to Namibia by development cooperation partners have not been rolled out yet for testing as their verification by the Namibia Institute of Pathology is yet to be completed. The Ministry is aware of the various rapid testing solutions on the market. However, Namibia has not yet adopted any rapid test kit for use in our preparedness and response.”

– MoHSS
Namibians are encouraged to seek out and acquaint themselves appropriately with information about the SARS-CoV-2 virus and the COVID-19 disease, especially at a time that infections are escalating and deaths occurring.

21st July 2020

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