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Defiance in Covid-19 hotspot suburbs

by Staff reporter
28 Jul 2020 at 09:29hrs | Views
RESIDENTS in Bulawayo's Covid-19 hotspot suburbs continue to flout lockdown regulations despite the threat posed by the global pandemic in their communities, as local transmissions constitute 90 percent of new cases. Local Government and Public Works Minister July Moyo on Saturday noted that there has been a shift in Covid-19 hotspots in Bulawayo.

While cases were previously concentrated in eastern suburbs, the pandemic is now deep in western suburbs. Cowdray Park, Emganwini, Nkulumane and Magwegwe West have the highest number of Covid-19 cases in the city.

The country on Sunday had recorded 2 512 Covid-19 cases including 12 deaths and 518 recoveries. Bulawayo with 664 had the second highest number of Covid-9 cases in the country after Harare which had 771 cases.

A news crew yesterday visited some of the Covid-19 hotspot suburbs and observed that residents did not seem to care about the fact their areas have the highest number of coronavirus cases in the city. Many residents were outdoors vending or illegally exchanging money while groups of young men sat on street corners and shared smokes.

In other suburbs, due to water crisis, scores converged at water bowser delivery points and boreholes without observing social distancing. Children were playing outdoors, oblivious of the threat posed by the pandemic, without wearing face masks.

The news crew observed a cat and mouse relationship between vendors and law enforcement agents, particularly in Cowdray Park.

Vendors would quickly vanish when security officials enforcing lockdown appeared, and reappear as soon as the police were out of sight.

Some Bulawayo residents went out to get tested for Covid-19 as numbers of local infections spike While some of the residents expressed fear that the virus had reached their communities others were doubtful and even more were in denial.

Some of the residents called for Covid-19 awareness campaigns in communities saying some people do not have access to media while others claimed that campaigns at community level could have more impact.

Ms Portia Nyathi, a vendor from Cowdray Park, said while she continues to violate lockdown regulations, she was scared of contracting Covid-19.

"We have heard that Cowdray Park is one of the suburbs with high Covid-19 cases. This worries us especially as I don't know who has the virus and doesn't. I can serve someone with the virus unknowingly and expose myself. Although I try my best to stay safe, there are some people who do not follow regulations. Some people especially children are not wearing face masks yet they spend most of the time outdoors," said Ms Nyathi.

She said selling vegetables is her only source of income hence she is left with no option but to go out to sell her products in violation of regulations.

In Cowdray Park there is also a high number of people involved in vehicular vending. One of the vendors, Mr Hitler Moyo said anyone who has not contracted Covid-19 should count themselves lucky.

"This disease is trickier unlike HIV where you can say someone was involved in risky sexual behaviour. With Covid-19 the moment you are out, even going to shops, you are at risk. We have a lot of crowding especially when people are scrambling to board Zupco buses. So, when I heard that Covid-19 is in the city I really got worried. It could be my neighbour or anyone who has it and can expose me to it," said Mr Moyo.

Mr Allan Sibanda from Nkulumane suburb said some people were implementing Covid-19 prevention measures only in the presence of police.

"You will hear someone saying let me put on my mask police are coming. It's as if we are wearing masks for police as opposed to saving our lives. So, I believe there is need for more education so that people can change their behaviour," said Mr Sibanda.

He queried why council was no longer conducting public disinfection programme as it did when the city had not recorded many cases. In April, the local authority in conjunction with police conducted fumigation exercise in populous areas.

Mr Sibanda said in light of increase in Covid-19 cases in residential areas, authorities should roll out a mass testing exercise at community level.

In Magwegwe West, some residents expressed shock that the suburb had been named among the city's residential Covid-19 hotspots.

The residents said the water crisis which results in most of them converging to fetch water from city council's water bowsers was increasing their risk of contracting the virus.

Mrs Silibaziso Nyoni said: "With water we won't be coming out of our houses but we don't have water. We have to go out and fetch water. People are grouping where there is a bowser without observing laid down regulations. This Covid-19 requires that we exercise highest hygienic standards we need to constantly wash our hands. But can we?"

Another resident, Ms Siphethokuhle Khumalo, said it was difficult for residents to believe that the suburb had one of the highest Covid-19 cases, considering that most of them have not heard of a positive person in the suburb.

Bulawayo mayor Councillor Solomon Mguni, whose Nkulumane Ward 23 is also among the Covid-19 hotspots, said lack of adherence to lockdown measures may prove detrimental.

"What is worrying us as city authorities now more than before is the fact that 90 percent of the new infections are local transmissions. This really points to the lockdown fatigue and indiscipline in so far as observance of the Covid-19 regulations is concerned," said Cllr Mguni.

"We simply have no choice but to stay home and practice hygiene all the time and minimise unnecessary travel. Our townships are now the hotspots and it's quite worrying that there is lots of activity at markets, community boreholes and other places. People must just adhere to Government gazetted Covid-19 protocols if we are to win this war."

Luveve Constituency MP Mrs Stella Ndlovu, whose area covers Cowdray Park, said she believes people were violating lockdown measures due to the need to eke a living. She encouraged those without a reason for going out to stay at home as there were more chances of contracting Covid-19 outdoors.

"But I also believe that we are not conducting comprehensive Covid-19 testing as a country and a city. If we do extensive mass testing it might emerge that there are more positive patients even in suburbs that have not been identified as hotspots," she said.

Quizzed about the actual Covid-19 cases per suburb, Bulawayo City Council director of health services Dr Edwin Sibanda, referred questions to the acting provincial medical director Dr Welcome Mlilo. Dr Mlilo said from the 664 cases, 125 were health workers while deaths stood at 15.

"Covid-19 patients admitted at isolation centres are 59 and 475 are in home isolation. These 475 are the people who are in our communities. We cannot immediately provide a breakdown on the cases per suburb but once we have done our mapping, we will make the information available," said Dr Mlilo.

He said the Rapid Response Team has observed a worrying trend that even in most affected suburbs residents were not complying with safety regulations including wearing of masks to say the least.

Dr Mlilo said with the prevailing cases, everyone in the city should be considered a Covid-19 threat even those who might have tested negative as their chances of contracting the virus remain high.

Source - chronicle

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