Improving Access to SARS-CoV-2 Screening and Testing through Community-based COVID-19 Case-Finding and the Use of Digital Solutions in Lesotho and Zambia
In many resource-limited settings, already weak healthcare systems are struggling to cope with the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic. Research teams in Lesotho and Zambia will investigate the effects of community-led interventions, rapid point-of-care diagnostics and swab self-collection in mitigating the COVID-19 epidemic in these countries. Innovative and locally adapted mitigation strategies to improve the COVID-19 care cascade, protect the communities and health care workers, and in return increase access to essential services are desperately needed.
The consortium convenes expertise from various disciplines and institutions to improve the COVID-19 care cascade, reduce community transmission, and mitigate the impact on service utilisation in resource-limited settings. The consortium members have established SARS-CoV-2 screening services in North-Eastern Lesotho and Central Province in Zambia. However, residents in these areas face many challenges to access services. Barriers are not yet well understood, but may include fear of contracting the disease when accessing health services, the stigma to report symptoms, long and costly travel to the closest available testing facility, or the extended isolation period that is usually mandated due to the long turn-around time of standard testing. Through close collaboration with the communities and local health authorities, and the utilisation of locally developed solutions, the project will provide a sustainable and locally grounded COVID-19 response – with an impact even beyond the project period.
This research is part of a joint initiative to bring together research teams from the BRCCH and the European & Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership (EDCTP) in collaborative projects. The research team supported by the BRCCH, led by Dr Klaus Reither (Swiss TPH), builds upon the MistraL project. The research team supported by the EDCTP, led by Dr Kwame Shanaube (Zambart), builds upon the TREATS-COVID project.
Banner image above: TREATS-COVID study hub near a busy market intersection in Ngungu-Bwacha, Kabwe, Zambia.
A community healthcare worker performs a SARS-CoV-2 nasopharyngeal swab on an individual at home. Photo: Swiss TPH/SolidarMed
A community healthcare worker visits a family in their home in Lesotho. Photo: Swiss TPH/SolidarMed
Community healthcare workers at the hub explaining the study to members of the community in Ngungu-Bwacha, Kabwe, Zambia. Photo: Zambart
Community healthcare worker washes hands between seeing study participants in Zambia. Photo: Zambart