Govt must open up on coronavirus

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HARRY PETER WILSON – THE government of Zimbabwe has a duty to disclose information on the coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak in the country in a timely, open and transparent manner.

The government should objectively report outbreak developments, investigation and treatment.
It has been nearly three months since the first cases of coronavirus were reported in Wuhan, China, and it is now a global outbreak.

At the rate at which coronavirus is spreading across the globe, our government does not have the luxury of concealing information about the virus, it is unavoidable and we have to be prepared for the worst scenario.

Lack of data and information about the coronavirus is a challenge, we still do not have a clear picture of some of the most basic information about this outbreak. Concerns have been raised that the government has no clear strategy in place to protect Zimbabweans from being infected with the coronavirus.

Already there are numerous rumours going around about the virus in Zimbabwe, the fear is real, and the reason is the lack of transparency and people’s distrust in the government’s statements, recklessness may contribute to rapid spread.

As Zimbabweans, we need to know if there is a death as a result of the virus or if someone is positive because it is possible that a person can spread the infection before he or she knows they are sick.

That is why it is particularly important to get reliable information about what is happening and what we can do to protect ourselves.

While there is the convenience of the internet in terms of information on the virus, there is also a lot of misinformation; social media sites, including Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, have seen a number of false and misleading posts.

In Zimbabwe, the lack of consistent, reliable and regularly updated information on the key measures of this outbreak is startling.

Since there is no vaccine against this new virus, public health efforts, such as catching cases early and instituting quarantine rules, are crucial.

While gathering information online may be your easiest initial option, I urge Zimbabweans to contact doctors if you they have symptoms of an infection, such as fever, cough, or shortness of breath.

There are several departments that should be activated to deal with information on the virus and these include parliament. I urge the Health Portfolio Committee to spring into action, train all members of parliament who in turn must educate their various constituencies.

The ministry of health must also train community health care givers who work directly with communities in rural areas; these are an important group in this unfolding crisis.

Hospitals, clinics and nurses’ homes staff has to be trained because in most instances coronavirus has killed more medical staff than patients.

Health care workers are among the most at risk of contracting the virus, as most lack protective gear and protocols to keep themselves and their patients safe.

The government should ensure all health care workers receive the highest levels of protective equipment.
As the virus slowly creeps into Zimbabwe, how much has government put aside for this fight, a fight which is definitely coming.

How many masks can government provide if the virus suddenly appears? Are we prepared enough because if there is a major outbreak our one hospital (Wilkins) will not cope? We need to construct bigger holding facilities.

Is it not also time to shut our borders to people coming from coronavirus hotspots because most countries have done the same? We need to protect ourselves given that we do not have the capacity to treat infected people.

Wilson is DOP president

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