The Sunday News
Vusumuzi Dube/Robin Muchetu/Leonard Ncube, Sunday News Reporters
PRESIDENT Mnangagwa has encouraged Zimbabweans to take maximum precautions to prevent the spread of coronavirus by limiting travel and outdoor activities as the country braces for the introduction of stringent and disruptive public health safety measures to fight Covid-19.
Two cases of Covid-19 had been recorded in Zimbabwe as of yesterday afternoon, according to Health and Child Care Minister Dr Obadiah Moyo.
The first case, announced on Friday night, was of a Victoria Falls resident who recently returned from Manchester, the United Kingdom, while a 30-year-old man who visited the United States in February also tested positive yesterday.
In an interview with our Harare Bureau soon after arriving in Harare from Windhoek where he attended the inauguration of Namibian President Hage Geingob yesterday, President Mnangagwa said confirmation of the two cases obliges the country to adopt stern measures to fight the pandemic.
“We appeal to all Zimbabweans to restrict their movements. We can only move for essential and critical reasons. Otherwise we recommend that our communities both urban and rural, remain where they are and not travel. The spread of this pandemic is so quick and fast, so we are appealing to our people to avoid travelling. Let us keep at home and only move either to buy food or medicines. I will discuss with my Minister of Health to hear the circumstances surrounding these two cases in order to take corrective measures to contain the spread of Covid-19.”
Health and Child Care Minister Dr Moyo had announced earlier the second case of Covid-19 after a man in Harare tested positive.
He said authorities have heightened surveillance and efforts to track and monitor all people suspected to have come into contact with those affected.
In a statement he said the latest case involved a 30-year-old male patient who is a resident of Harare who had travelled to New York in the United States of America on 29 February and returned home on 9 March via Johannesburg.
“Today (yesterday) the 21st of March 2020, the National Microbiology Reference Laboratory at Sally Mugabe Central Hospital in Harare confirmed yet another case of Covid-19 which brings to two the number of confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Zimbabwe.
“He started exhibiting mild symptoms (flue like illness) on the 12th of March 2020 which progressively got worse on 19 March 2020. He consulted his doctor who advised him to self-isolate at home.
“The doctor alerted the local Covid-19 Rapid Response team that immediately went to assess him and recommended that he continues with the self-isolation at home,” said Dr Moyo.
Dr Moyo said specimens were then collected and sent to the Reference laboratory for testing.
“Yesterday (Friday) evening he developed severe respiratory distress and after stabilisation at home he was admitted for isolation and clinical management at Wilkins Hospital. The Reference lab confirmed his Covid-19 positive results early this morning,” he said.
Dr Moyo said Covid-19 response teams were engaged in contact tracing and as with the first case, were being assisted by the patient himself. In Victoria Falls, where the first case was confirmed, authorities said the patient was recovering but they were tracking the people whom he came into contact with. Matabeleland North Provincial Medical Director Dr Purgie Chimberengwa said the patient was recovering at home.
“He remains at his home and doesn’t feel any pain anymore as he has recovered. His family is safe and now part of surveillance system including their workers. We are following on their contacts and asking them to self-quarantine. We have been compiling a list of those he came into contact with and on Friday night, they had been phoned and notified.”
Dr Chimberengwa appealed to members of the public to desist from circulating falsehoods.
“There is no need to close shop. We must not overreact. We recommend people to appropriately wash hands with soap and running water or use hand sanitisers with an alcohol content of about 70 percent.
“In the ideal, when one is quarantined, he or she must be in a separate room with no contact with family or anyone. Where there are no enough rooms that’s when we recommend face masks but the best way is hygiene.
“We discourage people to use the same gloves and masks for the whole day because by so doing you are not protecting anything but actually you are at risk of becoming the hub of the virus. If an infected person coughs on you and you wear the mask the whole day you can imagine what happens. The face mask is recommended for the patient and health worker attending to cases,” said Dr Chimberengwa.
In Bulawayo officials said they were on high alert and response teams have been put on standby since the country recorded its first case on Friday.
“The City of Bulawayo would like to encourage residents and members of the public to be vigilant in light of Covid-19. Through the health services department the emergency preparedness and response team is prepared to attend to cases that may arise. Following the pronouncement of the cases in Victoria Falls and Harare so far, the teams are on high alert,” said Mrs Nesisa Mpofu, the council spokesperson.
Officials also said they were now considering turning Ekusileni Medical Centre into another coronavirus referral centre for the region as the only infections diseases centre Thorngrove was too small in case of a massive outbreak.
The option was tabled after the Bulawayo City Council said it was ill resourced physically and resource wise to handle cases at Thorngrove Infectious Disease Hospital. Thorngrove was built in 1941 and caters for Bulawayo, Midlands and the two rural Matabeleland provinces, the North and South.
A visit to the hospital last week revealed that the hospital can accommodate 17 patients in the isolation ward which can be stretched to a maximum of 30. Church leaders last week met Minister of State of Bulawayo Provincial Affairs Cde Judith Ncube to table the idea of increasing centres that will cater for patients.
The church leaders said Ekusileni that has been closed for more than 20 years should open its doors as a second referral centre in Bulawayo. In response, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health and Child Care Dr Agnes Mahomva said Government was considering the proposal.
“It is very good to prepare for the inevitable. City Health in Bulawayo or Harare are supposed to be innovative and come up with suggestions on what they want to do then look at it together in terms of feasibility. If they are looking at Ekusileni, we will discuss around it and find a way forward,” she said.
The Parliamentary Portfolio Committee of Heath also toured facilities in Bulawayo last week to access preparedness and discovered that most hospitals were not readily equipped to deal with the coronavirus.
Sister Nomazulu Dlodlo, a staffer at Thorngrove Infectious Disease Centre said there was one patient who is under quarantine and under observation.
“We have one patient who is under isolation who came in on Monday and we do have several others who come thinking they have the virus but we have only admitted one so far,” she said without shedding more details about the patient.