SA firm pulls out of Covid-19 test deal

SA firm pulls out of Covid-19 test deal

MASERU-A SOUTH African company, which was in partnership with the Matekane Group of Companies (MGC) to provide Covid-19 tests, this week pulled out of the deal after disagreements over how much the government would pay per test.

Health Minister Nkaku Kabi confirmed to the media that Liselo Labs had withdrawn from the deal.
Kabi said Liselo Labs wanted to charge between M350 and M500 per test.
“Liselo had a fee that it presented to the government as charges per test,” Kabi said.

“The problem is that the World Health Organisation (WHO) has not accredited the equipment,” he said, adding: “The tests would have to run twice if tests are done using the donated equipment.”
“To have us pay M500 for a test and then transfer the tests to South Africa to an accredited diagnostic company is expensive.”
Kabi said the WHO said the technology and equipment needs to be tested by the body before it could be approved.

“But we are already expecting equipment that is ready for testing from Germany which is WHO-accredited and the equipment is expected this week,” Kabi said.

The tests from this equipment will not need to be double-checked.”
He said the equipment the MGC donated “will not issue wrong results but it is that it was not checked and approved by the WHO and the results will not be of WHO standard”.

Kabi said the agreement between the MGC and the Ministry of Health was that since it was going to be expensive to test 50 000 samples at a cost of M18 million, the ministry can wait for the WHO’s equipment and roll out local testing.
He said the MGC said even though the equipment will not be used in Covid-19 tests it should be used for other tests.
He said the equipment should not be left to accumulate dust but should be used.

“We promised (the MGC) that the equipment will be used by the ministry’s lab technicians and the experts in the ministry,” he said.
“The equipment will be useful to the ministry. The equipment will be used free of charge as a gift.”

Kabi confirmed that that the government will roll out Covid-19 tests starting next week adding that only people with flu symptoms will be tested.
The MGC’s spokesperson, ’Mamotake Matekane, said their biggest intention with the donation was to answer to the needs of Basotho and to assist the government in fighting the pandemic.

Matekane said it is up to the government to make the best decision when it comes to getting reliable results out of the tests that will be performed.
She said Liselo Labs’ withdrawal will not affect the terms of the donation.

“We understand that before we can roll out everything and even have a handover ceremony a lot of talks go on in the background,” Matekane said.
“It took longer than expected but soon local testing of Covid-19 will happen in the country, that’s all we want,” she said.

“We also understand that the government needs to follow WHO protocol and abide by WHO (guidelines). All we did was to give a helping hand.”
The MGC pledged M30 million towards improving the national laboratory capacity, procuring Covid-19 testing equipment, testing kits and transportation logistics and protective clothing.

Rose Moremoholo

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