Tanzania: Probe committee reveals flaws in Covid-19 testing at national lab

Dar es Salaam. Health Minister Ummy Mwalimu on Saturday May 23 revealed findings of a report presented to her by the 10-man probe committee formed early this month to investigate the National Health Laboratory after President John Magufuli raised concerns over Covid-19 testing facilities at the state-owned lab.

For nearly one month, Tanzania has not fully updated statistics on Covid-19 testing due to quarries that were raised by President Magufuli over test kits.  Until today, May 23, the officially known number of people infected by the coronavirus stands at 509, with 21 deaths and 183 recoveries.

Concerns had been raised over the fate of the testing process and the subsequent release of data after President Magufuli questioned the reliability of Covid-19 test results released from the state health lab, leading to the suspension of the facility’s Director Dr Nyambura Moremi.

Ms Mwalimu today said the investigation report shows there were weaknesses in the professional management, set up and operations of the national laboratory facilities, thus affecting the quality of tests carried out on Covid-19 the storage of samples and verification of results.

“One of the machines for testing samples of Covid-19 was faulty but the management did not take action in time,’’ said the Minister, revealing that all the testing facilities had now been moved to a new National Public Health Laboratory  located at Mabibo in Dar es Salaam.

“The new laboratory can carry out testing on up to 1,800 Covid-19 samples in 24 hours compared to the previous one which could test only 300 samples,’’ she said.

During her inspection of the new national laboratory in Dar es Salaam, the minister spoke to a number of truck drivers and assured them that they would now get their Covid-19 results within 24 hours.