Employers decry Covid-19 testing cost burdens

By Alois Vinga

EMPLOYERS Confederation of Zimbabwe (EMCOZ) bemoaned the burdens of Covid19 testing fees amid calls for the government to step in and take charge by deploying resources collected through taxes.

By August 18, Zimbabwe had recorded 121,498 confirmed coronavirus cases and 4,181 deaths, according to the Ministry of Health and Child Care which collects the national statistics on the pandemic.

The emergence of the Covid-19 third wave in June,  saw a phenomenal rise in the number of both new cases deaths

Business  organisations also reported a big jump in cases among workers testing positive and forcing their peers to obtain tests for operations to continue.

By mid July, Zimbabwe had around 50 Covid19 approved Covid-19 testing centres, including private and public hospitals. These include Lancet laboratories ,PSMI Harare Branch, Cimas Harare laboratory ,Diagnopath laboratory Harare, Klosad Laboratory Harare and Mater Dei Hospital Laboratory, among others.

Citizens willing to be tested are subject to pay between US$30 and US$75 for the tests.

EMCOZ President, Doctor Israel Murefu, bemoaned the test burdens on the part of employers.

“Generally, we are not comfortable because this is a double cost to employers since employers who are still subject to pay for health insurance or medical aid on behalf of employees. 

“The pandemic is a national emergency and this cost should naturally and by right be met by the government which businesses pay tax to so that it takes care of such calamities,” he said.

Murefu said such services should be an extension of the civil protection concept which is government responsibility.

“However may corporations have gone out of their way to meet this cost anyway? If there are employers who are refusing to pay the cost of testing we are not aware of them but the reason could be that they do not have the necessary financial resources to pay given the fact that many companies were affected by lockdown closures and loss of business,” he said.

He said that the will to pay on the part of employers is there but the means might be lacking.

“We need social dialogue where we discuss such things as measures to be observed during lockdowns which include operating hours, transport and access to work, vaccination strategy and many other policy matters attendant to the pandemic and lockdowns,” Murefu added.

Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), secretary general,  Japhet  Moyo, said responsibility should not be left in the employers hands alone.

“This is a national disaster we are facing. Everyone is expected to contribute. While workers are required to produce and provide services, the employer and government is  supposed to step in . 

“It is  unfair for anyone to expect workers to carry the cost of testing  (and)n at the same time provide labour,” he said.

Moyo suggested that  the budget surpluses that government Treasury was boasting of should be used to pay for these tests.

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