Thursday, 12 March 2020


THE Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Health has expressed reservations about Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport’s capacity to effectively detect travellers with coronavirus (Covid-19) on arrival. 

This comes after a visit by the committee to the largest airport in the country and Wilkins Hospital in Harare to assess the state of preparedness to deal with the deadly virus, which has claimed over 4 000 and infected more than 115 000 people globally. 

Ruth Labode, the chairperson of the committee, said parliamentarians were not happy with the state of preparedness at the international airport. They were, however, impressed with what they saw at Wilkins Hospital, which can accommodate 35 coronavirus patience at a time.

“There are concerted efforts by our foot soldiers — at Wilkins and at the RGM International Airport — and I was impressed by the level of preparedness at the Wilkins Hospital. 

“I discovered that the health workers at Wilkins are well equipped and trained to deal with the disease, but more needs to be done at our ports of entry, especially RGM International Airport, which is porous,” Labode said.

“During the tour of the airport, I discovered that while the workers were putting on their preventative clothing, I witnessed an employee who was interacting with travellers coming from outside the country without a mask. 

“Employees at the entry points have to be extremely cautious to curb the spread of the virus.” Labode evaluated the RGM International Airport’s state of preparedness at 60 percent.

“There are some gaps at the airport that need to be plugged in the wake of Covid-19.
“There is need for proper training among the health practitioners manning the airport. Once our health staffers are protected then all of us are protected as well.
“I have discovered that people are conscious about the virus, but it seems there are no adequate resources, making our entry points porous. I can give this airport 60 percent in terms of their preparedness against Covid-19,” said Labode. 

RGM airport head of Immigration Evans Siziba said arrivals at the airport had gone down, adding that workers at the complex did not have adequate gear to protect them from contracting the virus.

“Most of the protective gear, including masks, is bought in foreign currency which we do not have. 

“We used to have many people coming from China, but since the outbreak of the Covid-19, the figures have drastically dropped. We are now sitting on 30 percent,” Siziba said.

According to the World Health Organisation, 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, flue, shortness of breath and diarrhoea, and the precautions that have to be taken include covering one’s mouth when coughing and sneezing, and continuously washing one’s hands.


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