Minister calls for calm over corona…as Jack Ma dispatches more equipment to Zim  


Nokuthaba Nkomo
and Fungi Kwaramba

©️  AUTHORITIES are appealing for calm amid warnings by doctors that the shortage of coronavirus test kits and adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) in the country could see more local infections, the Daily News reports.

This comes as Zimbabwe was yesterday due to receive the second consignment of Covid-19 equipment from Chinese billionaire Jack Ma.

It also comes as the lethal disease has so far killed four people and infected 51 others in the country — with 18 of them reported to have fully recovered from the virus.

Speaking in an interview with the Daily News yesterday, Health and Child Care minister Obadiah Moyo, pictured, appealed for calm, saying the government was working closely with its partners to ensure that authorities remained on top of the situation.

“We do not live in isolation. Globally there is an increased demand for reagents (required for testing) and other consumables that are needed in the fight against Covid-19.

“This has caused a scramble for materials among nations and inevitably we are also affected,” Moyo said.
“However, we are working around the clock with our partners to ensure that we still test as many people as possible and that we improve our quarantine facilities.
“We are confident that we will be able to meet the challenges and that our health facilities and personnel are adequately equipped,” he added.

As of Thursday night, the country had tested 34 707 people for the virus, equating to an average of 1 000 tests a day since Monday.

Moyo said while the government was concerned that recent coronavirus cases in the country involved returning residents, it was confident that it would contain the situation.

“We are positive that if we control returning citizens and their movement we will be able to isolate cases and contain the spread. Our goal is to detect and isolate cases,” he said.

Meanwhile, health experts have expressed doubt over the government’s ability to manage the Covid-19 outbreak in the country going forward.

The Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights (ZADHR) said yesterday that the government had failed to meet some of the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) guidelines — such as having a tight lockdown and comprehensive testing of people.

This, ZADHR said, had left question marks on the government’s ability to contain the disease if it spiralled out of control.

“ZADHR notes with concern the lack of evidence-based decision making in informing the extension of the national lockdown in Zimbabwe.
“The Zimbabwean government has shown a lethargic approach towards conducting widespread Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) diagnostic tests for Covid-19.

“Zimbabwe continues to lag behind in meeting its testing and health infrastructure strengthening targets due to inadequate allocation of fiscal support from the central government.

“ZADHR is of the view that the lockdown extension must be benchmarked on clear targets, have a defined time-frame and must always be complemented by adequate support for vulnerable populations,” the doctors said.

“ZADHR has also noted with concern the poor state of affairs in the quarantine facilities.

“We wish to remind the government that the quarantine facilities must be urgently upgraded to meet the minimum standards as demanded by WHO, and all returnees must be treated with dignity in accordance with the regulations.

“Further, we continue to reiterate that though Covid-19 is a pandemic of international concern, local citizens and returning residents must not be hindered from accessing healthcare for other ailments,” ZADHR said further.

The organisation also implored the government to try and strike a balance between attending to Covid-19 patients and those with other illnesses, who were now being neglected — with all the attention being directed to the lethal virus.

“We note the decline in access to services for individuals with pre-existing and other emerging health conditions.
“Patients with chronic illnesses are finding it difficult to get re-supply of medication, and they cannot be properly followed up as out-patient clinics are closed in tertiary hospitals.

“We call upon the government to ensure that as they focus on responding to Covid-19, provision of other health services must not be abandoned, but instead be strengthened as well,” ZADHR added.

Zimbabwe is currently under a stay-at-home-order which was recently extended indefinitely by President Emmerson Mnangagwa, in a bid by authorities to maintain low infections in the country.

This came as cases of Covid-19 in the country have risen sharply over the past few days — climbing to 51 on Thursday, after almost two weeks without any new cases having been reported.
The rising infections also come as the government has been criticised for failing to embark on an expanded programme of testing people for the virus, to ascertain the prevalence of the lethal disease among local communities.

Authorities have also expressed worry as some returning residents are said to be running away from quarantine centres around the country without completing the prescribed time in isolation, to allow the government to manage the disease in the event that it manifests itself among the returnees.

As part of efforts by the government to prevent the country from being hit by a second wave of Covid-19, Moyo requested for more deployments of security forces earlier this week, to facilitate the tightening of the national lockdown.

Since the lockdown started, police have arrested more than 35 000 people for various breaches of the stay-at-home order.

According to WHO, the coronavirus comes from a large family of viruses that cause illnesses ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases.

Its symptoms include pneumonia, high fever, flu, shortness of breath and diarrhoea — and the precautions that have to be taken include covering the mouth when coughing and sneezing, and continuously washing one’s hands.




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