The Sunday News
Vusumuzi Dube and Bruce Ndlovu, Sunday News Reporters
BULAWAYO will go back to either complete lockdown or suburb specific lockdown as officials try to quickly combat the continued increase in the number of Covid-19 cases in the city, Sunday News has learnt.
According to statistics from the Ministry of Health and Child Care in the past six days (until Friday), the city accounted for 72 of the 267 new infections in the country of which 54 were of returning citizens. This has jolted officials who now fear the city needs tighter control to avoid a second wave. Bulawayo is leading with 109 active cases with Harare second with 71 active cases. A total of 66 deaths have been recorded in Bulawayo, coming second to Harare which has accounted for 121 of the 257 deaths countrywide. The total number of Covid-19 cases in the country stood at 8765 as at Friday, with 8090 having recovered giving the country a 92.3 percent recovery rate.
Bulawayo’s provincial Covid-19 taskforce has since written to the council’s health department demanding information on suburbs deemed to be hotspots to determine whether there is a need for a complete lockdown or suburb-based lockdown.
Chair of the taskforce, who is also the Minister of State Bulawayo Provincial Affairs and Devolution, Cde Judith Ncube told Sunday News yesterday that going back to lockdown was the only way to deal with the increase in the numbers of Covid-19 cases in the city.
“We have since instructed the Bulawayo City Council’s health department to give us figures on the hotspot suburbs in the city, after which we will decide whether we do suburb specific lockdowns or lockdown the entire city. What continues to be our worry is that the city’s statistics continue to rise hence the need for us to adopt a concerted effort in addressing this issue,” she said.
Minister Ncube said residents should continue to follow Covid-19 lockdown measures noting that carelessness was the cause of the increasing figures. There has been growing calls for people to respect Covid-19 regulations as people are now disregarding social distancing and were crowding at various places including bars and nightclubs operating illegally. Despite a curfew between 10pm and 6am, bars and night clubs in the city are now operating throughout the night while many people are no longer wearing masks. However, police have raided a number of nightclubs, arresting management and patrons.
Mpilo Central Hospital acting chief executive officer Professor Solwayo Ngwenya who has been vocal over the public’s attitude towards the Covid-19 pandemic stressed the need for officials to tighten lockdown measures.
“I have said it and will continue to say it that we will reach a point where the public themselves will be begging for the lockdown measures to be tightened and we have surely reached this stage, as people are now realising that this pandemic is within us.
“The authorities also have no choice but to tighten measures because the city’s figures are increasing on a daily basis. As we approach the Christmas holidays, we are likely to have a situation that the figures will balloon if nothing is done to address this issue,” said Prof Ngwenya.
The developments come at a time when one of the country’s top schools, John Tallach in Ntabazinduna, about 40 kilometres from Bulawayo last week went on “lockdown” after five of its pupils tested positive for Covid-19. The school is now working with the Ministry of Health and Child Care and no one is allowed in or out of the institution.
According to a communication from the school head, Mr Bonakele Ncube the school has since done Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests for all their learners and staff to determine whether they had any more people who had been infected with the virus.
“Following the confirmation of these five, the Ministry of Health and Child Care is carrying out further testing and screening in order to determine the extent of the spread. We believe everything is under control as we continue to work with the Ministry of Health and Child Care and other relevant authorities to contain it.
“The affected learners have been sent home for self-isolation and the school is communicating with them and they are doing very well in their recovery. As we await the PCR results, the safety of all our learners and staff is of uttermost importance and highest priority, and for this reason and also on the recommendation from the Covid-19 task force, lessons have been temporarily suspended with immediate effect and both learners and staff shall quasi isolate in their rooms,” reads part of the letter to parents and guardians.
The quasi isolation began last Monday for a 14-day period. Contacted for comment, director of communications in the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education, Mr Taungana Ndoro said outside the five who had tested positive they had no new cases, with the school implementing the Ministry prescribed Standard Operation Procedure.
“For now, we are fumigating the school as the students, teachers and ancillary staffing are going for the 14-day isolation which started last Monday. In this case no learning is taking place with the students isolated in their hostels. Further, of the tests that have been done we have no new cases but the school will continue working with the Ministry of Health and Child Care to contain the pandemic,” said Mr Ndoro.
According to statistics from the Ministry of Health and Child Care, as at Friday the country recorded 69 new cases and two deaths due to the pandemic. The seven-day rolling average for new cases rose to 42 from 36. “All 69 are local cases, with the deaths recorded in Bulawayo and Masvingo. A total of 28 new recoveries were reported; the national recovery rate now stands at 93,2 percent with active cases going up to 418,” reads the update.
Vice President Dr Constantino Chiwenga, who is also the Minister of Health and Child Care, has warned of the possibility of the country being hit by a second wave of Covid-19 saying ignorance, denial and wishful thinking could lead to more deaths. He urged citizens to adhere to health safety regulations.