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Covid-19 epicentre shifts to Bulawayo

by Staff reporter
18 Jul 2020 at 08:41hrs | Views
THE Covid-19 epicentre has shifted from Harare to Bulawayo with health experts warning that Matabeleland provinces are under heightened threat due to their proximity to South Africa, Africa's epicentre. Health experts in the country have since urged for a review of the lockdown which they said was the only way to curtail Covid-19 infections.

Earlier this week, Government said a review was on the cards. South Africa is now the sixth country in the world most affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, with 320 000 cases and 4 669 deaths as of yesterday afternoon, overtaking countries such a China, Italy, Iran, Spain and Germany which were once some of the most affected countries.

Bulawayo yesterday recorded another death and 27 new Covid-19 cases bringing the total number of cases in the province to 446 and 11 deaths followed by Harare with 408 cases and eight deaths. All the new cases in Bulawayo, which has now become the epicentre of the pandemic, were from local transmissions.

The national Covid-19 death toll now stands at 24. Medical staff are now testing positive for Covid-19 in increasing numbers, mostly after being infected by patients and if the spread is not curtailed there are fears that health personnel and facilities will be overwhelmed.

Acting Bulawayo provincial medical director Dr Welcome Mlilo yesterday said lockdown fatigue may be behind the increase in Covid-19 cases in the city.

"There are a number of factors that we can attribute to the increase in the number of recorded cases. Certainly, we are witnessing what may be called 'lockdown fatigue', with residents no longer observing lockdown laws and the infection, prevention and control measures articulated by the Ministry of Health. Zimbabwe as well doesn't exist in a vacuum. The number of cases recorded across the border has remained high," he said.

"Factor in that we are now in peak winter season, and we did expect to see the peak number of cases sometime in winter. These are but some of the contributing factors to the recent surge in number of cases in Bulawayo. But it is also testament to the quality of contact tracing efforts done by the Bulawayo health services department. Most of our cases are asymptomatic and yet we are able to detect them."

Dr Mlilo said the message to people remains the same: treat everyone as a potential Covid- 19 case. He said over 80 percent of cases will be asymptomatic or show mild symptoms.

"So, approach everyone as a possible source of Covid-19 infection. The government measures in place will not protect us without the community buy in. Let's all take personal responsibility for ourselves and the next person. Wear a well-fitting mask in public spaces, practice social distancing at every opportunity and let's practice good hygiene, wash and iron our masks, wash our hands. These are simple but yet effective measures that stop the transmission of the virus," said Dr Mlilo.

Zimbabwe Medical Association president Dr Francis Chiwora said porous borders and the country's proximity to South Africa was the chief contributor to the high numbers being recorded.

"We are very close to the borders, there is a lot of illegal unaccounted travel. People are crossing illegally into the country. No one is testing them. Some families are harbouring them, then obviously with such scenarios, cases are expected to skyrocket. What we need is a heavier lockdown, which will ensure limited movement, hence reducing the chances of people infecting each other. Remember that the virus does not move, but people move and carry it around, so the more we stay in one place, the less we spread it," said Dr Chiwora.

Mpilo Central Hospital clinical director and acting chief executive officer Dr Solwayo Ngwenya said epicentres in the country were shifting partly due to relaxed lockdowns in both South Africa and Zimbabwe, which made it easier for people to sneak into the country undetected. He said imported goods from truckers brought legally, and those brought by border jumpers were also possible carriers of the virus, which can stay on some surfaces for up to eight days.

"Our geographical link with South Africa, Africa's epicentre is problematic. It is now in the top 10 worldwide, and its lockdown was laxed, meaning people could move and come closer to the illegal crossing points. It's even more convenient for such travel as the lockdown measures in the country were also laxed. Dead bodies of relatives are crossing into the country. Infections from bodies cannot be ruled out too. These porous borders are yet to bring even more doom," said Dr Ngwenya.

"More people will die, if they do not listen. We have reached a dangerous point in the history of the virus. For every case you see, there could be three more cases unreported, and probably three more. If you do the math, it is not good. We need a hard lockdown."

Earlier this week, the director of epidemiology and disease control in the Ministry of Health and Child Care Dr Portia Manangazira said truckers were also contributing to the spread of the virus. She said what was more worrying was a sense of false immunity to the virus among people in shared community spaces such as offices, supermarkets and other workplaces.

"We witness a very worrying trend in terms of the increase in the number of cases, but also a different epidemiological trend when we compare to March when we confirmed our first case," she said.

As the virus spreads, about 25 nurses who attended to a Covid-19 positive case at a private hospital in Gweru were isolated after their samples were sent for testing.

A doctor who also attended to the positive patient tested negative. Midlands Provincial Affairs and Devolution Minister Larry Mavima who is also the Midlands Provincial Covid-19 taskforce leader said the nurses and the doctor were in contact with a Covid-19 case at the health institution.

Midlands provincial medical director Dr Reginald Mhene said the patient was admitted to Claybank Private Hospital from Friday to Tuesday. During that period, he said the medical staff were not aware of the patient's Covid-19 status with results only coming back on Tuesday indicating that the patient was positive. It could not be established if the patient is still hospitalised.

Source - the herald

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