Monday, 30 March 2020


A TOTAL of 10 people were tested for Covid-19 in Matabeleland North province after they came into contact with the 38-year-old resident of the resort town who was the first to test positive of the virus almost a fortnight ago.

Health authorities traced all his possible contacts and specimens were collected from those reached. Matabeleland North Provincial Medical Director Dr Purgie Chimberengwa said the man remains the only confirmed positive case in the province after the other 10 tested negative.

He however bemoaned longer turnaround periods caused by suspension of airlines as the province now sends specimens by road to Harare.

“The first confirmed case in Zimbabwe was reported on a resident of Victoria Falls who had visited United Kingdom. He had a mild respiratory symptom and was put on symptomatic treatment and is recovering well from the illness.

“Contacts of the confirmed case were identified and specimens were collected from them.  The province managed to send 11 specimens to National Microbiology Reference Laboratory (NMRL) in Harare and 10 came out negative including the ones that had been sent by road,” said Dr Chimberengwa.

The last two specimens were sent by road to Harare on Thursday and results came back negative on Saturday, said Dr Chimberengwa. 

“The turnaround period for getting results will be longer as airlines have suspended flights into Victoria Falls.  We used to fly the specimens when airlines were still available but now, we send them by road. We preserve them in triple packaging for safety before sending,” he said.

He said Hwange District is the epicentre of Covid-19 in the province because of tourism activities in Victoria Falls and construction at Sino Hydro in Hwange where there are scores of Chinese.

“All the specimens were from Hwange District which is why most of our efforts are focused on the district.

Dr Chimberengwa said Hwange district has a designated ambulance and has been allocated 50 percent of disinfectants received a few days ago from Government and its partners, with the other six districts in the province sharing the remaining half.

Travelers are being screened at ports of entry with those requiring follow-up being monitored.

Dr Chimberengwa said the current challenge is non-disclosure of correct information by travelers possibly due to fear of being quarantined. 

He said health teams are working flat out to follow-up on those put on self-quarantine.

“As a province we have competent staff that is collecting specimens which we are sending for processing. Currently we are left with two viral culture and transport media in Victoria Falls and we are in the process of getting more from the head office.

“We received some disinfectants and PPE that we have started distributing to all districts and of these, 50 percent will go to Hwange while the other half will be shared by other districts,” highlighted Dr Chimberengwa. 

He said efforts are being made to capacitate the NMRL at Mpilo Central Hospital supported by the National University of Science and Technology to do testing for Covid-19 in Bulawayo and improve laboratory turnaround time than to continue sending specimens to Harare for laboratory confirmation and tests.

All districts in the province have been tasked are to identify temporary isolation facilities specifically for Covid-19 suspected cases before they are referred to an appropriate isolation facility. Each district needs a designated ambulance, it has been recommended.

Two provincial facilities have been identified in Victoria Falls for isolation and case management Covid-19 at ZAP Building and Mkhosana Clinic.

A Victoria Falls Taskforce team made of up private sector players and chaired by the municipality has been put in place to mobilise resources and raise awareness among residents as well as prepare the two sites.

Sensitization of communities is ongoing across the province while information, education and counseling material on Covid-19 including in vernacular, were distributed to all districts, said Dr Chimberengwa.

The first case of Covid-19 was reported in China’s Wuhan province on the 30th of December and the deadly virus has spread to every continent. Chronicle


Post a comment