and Shamiso Dzingire
©️ AS ANXIETY levels over the deadly coronavirus continue to rise in the country, health experts are cranking up the heat on the government to come clean on its lack of preparedness to deal with the pandemic.
In addition, both medical doctors and human rights groups have told the Daily News that it is time that Zimbabwe asks for urgent international help if the country is to avert “a catastrophe of epic proportions”.
This comes as Zimbabwe has recorded its second death from Covid-19, amid growing fears that the country’s lack of preparedness could lead to an avalanche of infections among ordinary people.
It also comes as the 21-day national lockdown that was imposed by President Emmerson Mnangagwa last month to combat the spread of coronavirus is losing momentum, with more people breaching the regulations.
And now — in the wake of the death of a 79-year-old Bulawayo man who was confirmed to have had coronavirus — both doctors and human rights groups say the country needs to appeal for urgent international assistance to avert disaster.
The Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights (ZADHR) said bluntly that the death of the Bulawayo man was a result of the government’s lack of corona preparedness.
“ZADHR is deeply concerned by the continued lack of preparedness in handling severe Covid-19 cases in Zimbabwe.
“Equally, we are extremely worried by the possible exposure of health workers, both in private and public facilities, who are working without PPEs (Personal Protective Equipment).
“We urge health authorities to account for the … management of this case … It took five days (from 2 to 7 April) to get the result of the Covid-19 test, a period which is too long,” ZADHR said.
“The inability to diagnose on time is a clear sign that health professionals attending the deceased were exposed, as they lack essential protective equipment.
“The absence of diagnostic facilities for Covid-19 also brings to question the state of preparedness of centres outside Harare.
“What is the government doing to improve the turn-around time for tests? The patient was treated at a local hospital. Is this an infectious diseases hospital or a Covid-19 designated facility?” ZADHR said further.
“Previously, the minister of Health … assured the nation that the country is ready to deal with Covid-19 cases countrywide. The lack of clarity raises lots of questions.
“The patient was first seen on 23 March and was not advised to self-quarantine or get tested for Covid-19.
“ZADHR believes that this case and the continued demise of severe cases of Covid-19 patients mirrors the utter lack of preparedness of the health system,” it added.
The New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) was among those that said yesterday that it was becoming clear that the government was ill-prepared to handle the pandemic, and thus needed to appeal for help to avoid a human catastrophe in the country.
“The government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic should be rights-centred, honest and transparent. Lack of seriousness and propaganda can lead to catastrophic results.
“If the government lacks capacity, it must come out in the open and ask the international community, through the World Health Organisation, to step in and save lives,” HRW director for southern Africa, Dewa Mavhinga, told the Daily News.
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.
Makamba family spokesperson, Tawanda, highlighted Wilkins Hospital’s lack of capacity to handle coronavirus patients.
“At the end, before he died, Zororo kept telling us that he was alone and scared and that the staff were refusing to help him, to a point where he got up and tried to walk out and they were trying to restrain him.
“I want people to know that the government is lying. Remember at some point I spoke to the president and he was saying that the report he had received about Wilkins from the Health minister was that there is equipment and medicine.
“However, right now they don’t even have water at Wilkins. The doctor we were in contact with here at Wilkins would turn off his phone, yet he was the critical contact person.
“This is such a heart-breaking experience for us and it goes to show the lack of seriousness our government has in dealing with the coronavirus,” Tawanda told the Daily News then.
Last weekend, the government also admitted that it was 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.
“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, panic has gripped residents of Bulawayo following the death of the 79-year-old man who is said to have been in contact with many people before he fell seriously ill.
Bulawayo City Council medical director, Edwin Sibanda, said they were tracing the family of the deceased, and had so far identified 13 people who came into contact with him.
“We have collected specimens from 13 people, including healthcare workers, from Mater Dei Hospital.
“Samples have been collected and sent to Harare. We are now following up on the rest of the family,” Sibanda told the Daily News.
The deceased was expected to be cremated yesterday.
Meanwhile, Bulawayo residents and civil society leaders have also appealed to the government to decentralise Covid-19 testing.
They also appealed to the authorities to quickly capacitate Thorngrove Infectious Diseases Hospital, which has been identified as an isolation centre for the region together with Ekusileni Medical Centre.
Authorities say the deceased man died on Saturday after initially presenting himself before a general practitioner on March 23.
“His condition deteriorated during the evening of the day of admission and he was transferred to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) for the critical care and management in isolation, under a specialist physician.
“Whilst waiting for the Covid-19 test results, the patient continued to receive intravenous antibiotics and, additionally, he received medical treatment as a clinical case of Covid-19.
“On Saturday the 4th of April, his condition continued to deteriorate despite management in ICU until he died,” the government said.
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