Tuesday 11 February 2020


Zimbabwe has the capacity to test and detect the 2019 novel coronavirus and has established a centre for safe isolation and treatment of identified cases. The Ministry of Health and Child Care is in the process of securing rapid test kits, which produce results in 15 minutes.

The Sally Mugabe Central Hospital (formerly Harare Central Hospital) laboratory will be used for testing of the virus, while Wilkins Hospital will be for the isolation of suspected and confirmed cases.

Wilkins Hospital will be used as a training centre for coronavirus and other infectious diseases.

Zimbabwe has since activated surveillance systems, with special focus on the main ports of entry and exit such as the Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport, Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo International Airport and Victoria Falls International Airport.

Ground ports of entry such as Beitbridge are also under surveillance.

Zimbabwe, which is an “all-weather” friend of China, is under threat from the virus since there is a lot of movement by citizens conducting business in either country.

So far, 1 700 people are under surveillance after returning home from zones that have cases of coronavirus.

Health and Child Care Minister Dr Obadiah Moyo, the acting permanent secretary Dr Gibson Mhlanga and other senior officials in the Health ministry, on Monday visited the two institutions to make sure thematic systems were ready to deal with coronavirus. 

At Sally Mugabe Central Hospital, the team was taken around the laboratory by the hospital chief executive, Dr Tinashe Dhobbie, where they saw the machines and other equipment to be used for testing the virus.

Harare City Council health services director Dr Prosper Chonzi took the team around Wilkins Hospital, showing them the process of receiving patients, isolation rooms, preparedness of staff in terms of handling patients and protecting themselves up to the stage of disposal of bodies if patients die from the virus.

Dr Moyo said he was happy with the preparedness of the two institutions in managing coronavirus, although a few things needed to be improved.

Speaking after touring Sally Mugabe Central Hospital, Dr Moyo said: “I have seen the equipment available here and all relevant equipment for testing for 2019 novel coronavirus. I am satisfied with the level of precautions that they have to take.

“We are ready for anything in terms of the arrival of 2019 novel coronavirus.

“We are able to detect and pick up coronavirus from the shoulders of our sampling systems requirements.

“These few machines, we have one in Victoria Falls and all the ports, for now we are going to start testing at this laboratory.”

Dr Moyo said the hospital could do a lot of samples in a short period, with one of the machines getting up to 96 results within a two-hour period.

“We want to move further; we are also sourcing for some other kits which are the rapid test kits, which will enable us to get the results in 15 minutes, we are in the process of securing rapid test kits,” he said.

“For now, what we have is adequate, very high calibre equipment, so we are satisfied with what we saw.

“We start with suspects based on the symptoms and then the laboratory test is the one that is most essential in confirming that someone is a carrier of coronavirus.”

Dr Moyo said he was satisfied with the level of preparedness at Wilkins Hospital, where personnel was trained in handling patients.

“It’s a process which has to be followed and there are no short cuts at all,” he said.

“Everyone has to be protected. I am very happy with the facility; it is of high standard. There are one or two things that we have suggested that they will do to make it final.

“Thousands of people have contracted the virus in China and suddenly it’s you in Zimbabwe. Just imagine the psychological impact it will have on our health workers, especially the ones who are going to receive the first ones.”

Dr Moyo said they were supporting training of hospital staff at Wilkins. Dr Chonzi said training of hospital staff for all urban local authorities will start tomorrow.

“We will train trainers; we want to train down to the shop floor,” he said. Coronavirus is highly contagious and there is no cure for now as with most viral infections.

Only experimental treatments have been used in China with success in stabilising patients. 

An anti-retroviral, Kaletra (ritonavir and lopinavir) has been used. Coronavirus symptoms include pneumonia, high fever, flu like symptoms, chest pains, diarrhoea and shortness of breath.

Precautions include covering the mouth when coughing or sneezing, washing hands the same way as people do when guarding against cholera and typhoid. Herald


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