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Zimbabwe companies cry foul over the mandatory COVID-19 testing of workers, citing costs

Filed under: Business,Health & Nutrition,International News,Latest News |

When Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa announced the further extension of the lockdown, he pointed out that some companies would be left to operate.

This move was aimed at getting the economy running, while trying to contain the spread of coronavirus. But, he gave strict conditions, among them, the need for companies to test their workers for the virus.

To give it legal effect, the government through Statutory Instrument 99 of 2020 has since said those that do not comply with the testing regulations, including social distancing and wearing of face masks during the 14-day extended lockdown, would face a possible one year jail term.

Apparently, the compulsory testing requirement have pitted industry and the government on a tag of war.

According to the Employers’ Confederation of Zimbabwe (Emcoz) there is no common ground between the two parties regarding the testing requirement.

Emcoz president Israel Murefu, said there was no common ground on the mandatory testing imposed on employers by government on two fronts — cost and practicability.

“If you look at capacity, the national response has managed in more than 30 days to do just 9 000 tests, yet government expects in just 14 days for companies to have tested over a million workers, it’s just not practical or feasible,” he said.

Murefu added that industry could also not meet the cost of the tests with private laboratories, particularly given that most companies have not been operating for five weeks.

“The cheapest quotation for tests is US$25 and the most expensive is US$100 (per person). Now for most companies that have not been operating, there would be no budget for this.

“While the idea is noble and business is sympathetic and would want to ensure employees and their families are safe, the cost is just beyond reach, unless government proposes to include the cost of testing in the $18 billion stimulus package they are proposing,” Murefu said.

The Health ministry in a May 3 statement released “guidelines for the operationalisation on mandatory employee testing of COVID 19 before re-opening of business,” which called on companies to procure testing kits, essentially unloading the burden of testing to companies.

“To expedite the testing process, companies are encouraged to procure the COVID-19 rapid test kits for themselves, guided by MHOCC in terms of test kits specifications.

“Employers must arrange with the designated testing facilities (public or private) for their employees to be tested at an agreed time at the facilities or at the work place,” the guidelines read.

In line with SI99 of 2020, those that do not comply with the regulations would face a possible one-year jail term.

“Any person who fails to comply with an order of an enforcement officer given under this section, or who hinders or obstructs an enforcement officer from having the access referred to in subsection (6), shall be guilty of an offence and liable to fine not exceeding level twelve or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding one year or both such fine and such imprisonment,” reads part of the SI.


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