Health officials in Manicaland province say they are faced with a contact tracing dilemma due to limited resources, amid rising local transmissions driven by noncompliance to Covid-19 regulations.
Most of the recorded cases reported in the province so far have been dominated by local transmissions and as of 5 August Manicaland had a total of 206 cases with local transmissions representing the larger percent of positive cases standing at 122.
Provincial Medical Director Dr Simon Nyadundu said contact tracing for local cases was not only costly but proving to be a logistical challenge as some of the contacts were located in different districts in the province.
He said the initial target of government’s National Response Strategy for Covid 19 underestimated the possible contacts of infected persons at five when infected persons can actually have up to thirty four contacts.
“When President Mnangagwa launched the National Response Strategy for Covid-19, there were some assumptions which were in that document. For contacts, the assumption was that one case would have five contacts but unfortunately with the local cases, we have had contacts as high as 34 for some.
“This is the reflection of the resources we would require to follow up all those 34 people because they are not in the same geographical area,” he said.
Mutare City council has also raised concerns over the unsustainable costs they are bearing for contact tracing, despite all quarantine and isolation centres being located in Mutare for accessibility.
Council said contact tracing and surveillance remained underway with 372 contacts currently under surveillance- which is being done over the telephone, a measure not effective as people may not divulge information.
Several reports of persons evading the rapid response teams and quarantine centres have surfaced, and officials say some of them have gone on to test positive after travelling to their respective districts.
“There is reduced compliance to laid down Covid-19 prevention behaviors by residents which has given rise to an increase in local transmission. Residents have not heeded the call to continue wearing face masks and continued hand hygiene even among their relatives.
“We have challenges of fuel and vehicle shortages making rapid response, contact tracing and surveillance difficult,” council said in a recent situation report.
Municipal authorities are worried over the low risk perception by residents in Mutare, where the majority of positive cases are clustered within Chikanga suburb- the hotspot for Covid-19 in the city, mainly caused by open interaction at vegetable markets.
Mutare City director of Health services, Dr Antony Mutara said council has increased its efforts in Risk Communication through the radio, information and awareness campaigns and health promotions with stakeholders and volunteers.
Mutara said the city could be facing its own fair share of these transmissions, as he called for vigilance as increasing local transmissions have been recorded with Ministry of Health statistics showing a lead in these local infections.
“City of Mutare is engaged in continuous monitoring and surveillance on all contacts of know COVID 19 cases, as well as contact tracing for people who could have had contact with positive patients outside of the city.
“The major challenge we have identified amongst our people was behavior change in the communities which is caused by low risk perception in the public, during a time where there are now local transmissions (contact with infected person locally without record of travel).
“There is low risk perception by the community, because some members of the community do not consider themselves to be at risk of transmission, this has translated into lack of physical distancing and adherence to hygiene protocols.
“We are continuously engaging in Risk Communication through the radio, information and awareness campaigns and health promotion with our partners, so that we counter the low risk perception of the people,” said Mutara.