Doctors take govt to court over returnees
DEPUTY CHIEF WRITER
THE Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights (ZADHR) has dragged government to the High Court demanding that returning residents are tested thrice for the deadly coronavirus (Covid-19) before releasing them.
They also said that all quarantine centres must have running water, are regularly disinfected and are suitable for human habitation.
This comes amid the rising number of cases in the country at 178, with most people testing positive being returnees from South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Mozambique and the UK.
In an urgent chamber application yesterday, ZADHR, through the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR), is the applicant, while Health minister Obadiah Moyo is the respondent.
ZADHR secretary general Norman Matara is seeking to compel the government to put in place adequate measures to mitigate the spread of coronavirus in quarantine centres.
Matara said in terms of the Public Health (Covid-19 Prevention, Containment and Treatment) Regulations, the Health minister may identify or approve sites such as schools, colleges and hospitals to be used as isolation and quarantine centres.
He, however, said there was a challenge in the testing process, as authorities have been failing to comply with testing guidelines, which were supposed to be carried out on the first, eighth and the 21st day of the quarantine period.
“Failing to test them (returnees) is a cocktail for disaster as some people without the disease at the facilities, including personnel attending to them, may be infected.
“Some of those who have tested positive at Girls High School would have survived infection had testing been done as prescribed, as those who may become symptomatic would have been isolated at the earliest convenience.
“Secondly, social distancing is a serious problem as returnees, who are unrelated and only meeting at the centres, are sharing dormitories and ablution facilities. Studies have shown that places where social distancing is least practiced or not practiced are 35 times at risk of spreading the Covid-19 disease,” Matara said.
He said the quarantine centres were not being regularly disinfected and lacked general hygiene, adding that the returnees were not being provided with sanitisers and soap.
“The respondent is, therefore, not doing enough to control the spread of the Covid-19 cases, particularly in quarantine centres. In the last few days, we have seen an increase in the number of people testing positive in the quarantine centres.
“If the situation in the quarantine centres is not improved, we face the real risks of experiencing major spikes in Covid-19 cases, which the already over-stretched health system may not be able to contain,” he said.
He said the matter was urgent in that there has been a rapid increase in the number of positive cases in quarantine centres in the last few days.
“There is also a likelihood that those whose results were negative following the tests conducted on the 24th of May 2020 could have been subsequently infected. These may be released seemingly asymptomatic, only to infect their loved ones back home,” Matara said.
Moyo is yet to respond to the application.