Gvt asks for help as death toll rises. . . doctors demand widening of corona testing  


Mugove Tafirenyika
and Sindiso Mhlophe

©️  THE government has launched an urgent local and global appeal for financial and material aid to combat the spread of coronavirus in the country, amid the rising death toll from the pandemic, the Daily News reports.

This comes as the Harare City Council revealed yesterday that its Wilkins-run hospital had taken in four people suspected to be infected by the lethal virus.

At the same time, doctors who met President Emmerson Mnangagwa yesterday implored him and the government to urgently embark on an expanded testing programme of citizens to avoid many people dying from the pandemic.

This came as Finance minister Mthuli Ncube announced yesterday that the government had launched the National Disaster Fund (NDF), admitting in the process that Covid-19 was likely to be “one of the worst natural disasters to befall our nation in recent times”.

“The Covid-19 pandemic is undoubtedly very likely to be one of the worst natural disasters to befall our nation in recent times.

“Government has, in response, set aside significant resources towards efforts to mitigate the immediate, medium and long term effects of this global pandemic on our people and the broader economy.

“However, the scale and seriousness of this epidemic calls upon all of us as Zimbabweans to put our best foot forward and I, therefore, wish to call upon … all stakeholders that have the capacity and wish to assist in any way to come forward with their contribution to … combat the Covid-19 pandemic,” Ncube said.

The launch of the NDF comes as Zimbabwe registered its third death from coronavirus this week, from the 11 people who have so far tested positive for the deadly disease — a development which has made the country’s Covid-19 mortality rate among the highest in the world, at 27 percent.

There are growing fears that the absence of enough rapid testing kits in the country places Zimbabwe’s ability to contain the virulent disease in jeopardy.

On its part, the government has admitted candidly that it is facing challenges with its coronavirus testing kits, with most of its stocks defective.

“We received some kits which we are not using because we found that they were defective.
“We are, therefore, waiting to receive definitive testing kits because some of the rapid results testing kits we have give defective results.

“This way, one person can test negative when one is positive, and a positive person can test negative when that is not the case. So, those tests are not reliable,” Health and Child Care minister, Obadiah Moyo told our sister publication the Daily News On Sunday, earlier this week.

“The only reliable testing that is taking place in the country is being carried by the government and not private hospitals.

“As government, we are using the golden standard which is definitive, although this takes five hours for results to show.

“We hope to get more testing kits so that we come up with results early,” Moyo further told the Daily News on Sunday.

Meanwhile, yesterday’s news that Wilkins Hospital — the only certified hospital in the country for the treatment of Covid-19 patients — had taken in four suspected coranavirus patients, will likely add to fears that have gripped the nation regarding the disease.

“Initially, we had one star patient at the hospital that unfortunately passed away last night (Wednesday). Right now, we have four people that are suspected of having the virus.

“These four people came into the country from a cruise ship from the United States, and we have tested them and are waiting for their results,” Harare’s director for health, Prosper Chonzi, revealed.

He also said following the renovations that were made at the hospital, the facility now had the capacity to accommodate up to 70 patients.

“We are in a better space now and we can accommodate more people than we were able to do before the outbreak started.

“We are now able to manage some of the critically-ill patients although we are not hundred percent there.
“We can at least ventilate others and also manage those that need to be nebulised. Those that need oxygen, face masks and nasal prongs, we can now manage them,” Chonzi said further.

“We are happy that we now have ICU beds and proper state-of-the-art ventilators. They are not in the numbers that we would want, but we have some and we can now save lives.

“We can now comfortably take 10 into critical care, while the rest of the 60 beds will be made up of stable and moderately ill patients,” he added.

However, and despite the improvements, health experts say the rising death toll from the few cases of people who have tested positive for Covid-19 point to worse things to come — unless the government acts quickly to avert a disaster of epic proportions.

The Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights (ZADHR) has warned that all three patients who had died so far merely needed respiratory support, which the government had proved incapable of providing.

“Apart from the rising death toll whose percentage could be misleading, given that the number of coronavirus positive cases could be more than the 11 that have officially been confirmed owing to limited testing, what is more worrisome are the circumstances around the deaths which suggest that all the three only needed respiratory support.

“One therefore wonders what will happen when we have more cases if we cannot manage only three.
“That thought sends a chill down the spine and we have said government should up its game,” ZAHDR secretary Norman Matara told the Daily News.

Government spokesperson Nick Mangwana urged people not to flout the 21-day lockdown measures that were announced by Mnangagwa to help combat the spread of Covid-19 in the country.

“Stay home Zimbabwe. We are not hiding numbers, but certainly we are not yet testing enough,” Mangwana said on Twitter yesterday.

The issue of how ill-prepared Zimbabwe has been to deal with Covid-19 was brought to the fore last month following the death of broadcaster Zororo Makamba — after he apparently contracted the lethal virus in the United States of America (USA).

His death and the family’s subsequent exclusive interview with the Daily News touched the hearts of many Zimbabweans and foreigners alike, generating wide debate about the government’s lack of capacity to deal with the disease.



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