Sunday, 12 April 2020


IN A refreshingly candid admission, Vice President Kembo Mohadi says the government should do more to combat the spread of the coronavirus pandemic in the country.

Speaking in an interview with the Daily News On Sunday — after a meeting with doctors in Harare on Friday — the usually introverted Mohadi said bluntly that he was not happy with what the country had done to prepare for the lethal disease.

He also conceded that the number of people who have so far been tested for the virus in the country, at less than 500, did not reflect well on Zimbabwe’s  efforts to combat the global pandemic.

This comes as Zimbabwe has registered its third death from coronavirus, from the 13 people who have so far tested positive for the deadly disease — a development that has made the country’s Covid-19 mortality rate among the highest in the world, at 27 percent. 

It also comes as health experts have also raised the red flag over Zimbabwe’s preparations for Covid-19, citing a glaring lack of testing kits, intensive care units, ventilators and personal protective equipment (PPE), among other critical things.

“Tests should be done expeditiously and they (doctors) said we should also move out of Harare and go to other areas. Even before the lockdown, we did not know who had been where and who they had visited and met. We need to do more testing using facilities that are there. I am equally not happy myself that we have only tested over 400 people. We need to have tested more,” Mohadi said. 

“The same with Bulawayo, we have an international airport there. So, there is a possibility that we might be having people that might have been somewhere who might have sneaked into the country without us knowing. We need to do the necessary sampling,” the VP added.

Mohadi also disclosed that the government would soon dispatch teams to hunt for possible cases at busy ports of entry such as Victoria Falls and Beitbridge.

“The other area we will soon look at is Victoria Falls, as well as areas like Buffalo Range … Doctors believe that if many people test positive, Wilkins will be overwhelmed. It’s a small place. They said we must refurbish Parirenyatwa and I agree with them. But there must be an area that must deal specifically with coronavirus since the hospital also admits people who are not Covid-19 patients.

“As I am talking to you now, members of the ad hoc committees are in the provinces establishing structures. We want to decentralise operations even up to the district level,” Mohadi said.

“We have some areas we think might be having people that have the virus, especially in places like Beitbridge and Matabeleland South in general, where most people go to seek employment in South Africa.

“Usually they will be working in Johannesburg, where there is a high possibility of infections. We are also looking at areas like Masvingo and Chipinge from where many people go to South Africa. A number of these people are deported and … I don’t think they were screened enough. So, we need to have tests in those areas now,” Mohadi said further.

Just before South Africa’s national lockdown a fortnight ago, more than 13 000 Zimbabweans returned home through Beitbridge Border Post.

Although these people were screened before they were released, the government says it is following up on them after the 14-day incubation period to check for coronavirus symptoms.

But fresh doubts were raised on the country’s testing thoroughness following the death of a 79-year-old Bulawayo man last week, who succumbed to the lethal virus but whose results were only released four days after his death.

He had been treated and held in a general ICU, where health experts say he may have exposed other patients and health care workers there to the deadly disease.

“The patient was treated at a local hospital. Is this an infectious diseases hospital or a Covid-19 designated facility? 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 patient was first seen on March 23 and was not advised to self-quarantine … What is the state of preparedness in centres outside Harare,” the Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights said after the man died.

And as concerns grow over the country’s rising coronavirus death toll, Mohadi told the Daily News On Sunday that these deaths revealed weaknesses in the country’s healthcare system.

“We are worried about the death rate as government. Even if it was one percent, we would still be worried. It’s a new thing (coronavirus),and we are still learning from other countries … doctors raised concerns about their safety and that of their families. 

“They don’t have enough personal protective equipment. Psychologically, it affects everybody if you attend to someone who is Covid-19 positive. If he or she dies, and you don’t know if you contracted the disease … so, doctors need to be equipped,” Mohadi said. 

“It’s like taking soldiers into battle without ammunition. What do you expect? You should expect a defeat. So, we need to equip them,” he further told the Daily News On Sunday. 

Mohadi also said committees that were set up to mobilise resources to fight coronavirus were still seeking essential equipment and funding. 

“Every day we are getting something from our friends around the world and within Zimbabwe. Zimbabweans have responded well against this virus,” he said. 

The VP also revealed that Zimbabwe was yet to train more health practitioners on how to handle the deadly virus.

“Doctors and nurses need to be trained and that training has got to be done now. We must make it a point that they are trained.

“On the issue of incentives for doctors, the government is looking into that. Doctors have had those grievances for a long time, but now, coupled with the dangers that come with the virus, the situation has to be looked at differently, because we need our patients to be attended to,” Mohadi added.

This comes as the government has taken a lot of flak from a large cross section of Zimbabweans for the manner in which it has been preparing for Covid-19. 

Presently, Zimbabwe does not have adequate quarantine centres, with most parts of the country remaining uncovered — as the cash strapped government struggles to mobilise resources.

In cities like Gweru, the government has set up a makeshift centre — which has copped a lot of criticism — to quarantine possible positive cases of the virus. 

The country is currently in the middle of a 21-day lockdown that was imposed by President Emmerson Mnangagwa last month in a bid to curb the spread of Covid-19. 

Coronavirus has killed about 105 000 people around the world as of yesterday, with infection rates fast hurtling towards the two million mark globally. 

According to the World Health Organisation (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 hands. Daily News


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