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Schools opening deferred as COVID-19 cases surge

by Staff Reporter
23 Jun 2021 at 07:29hrs | Views
CABINET yesterday deferred the opening of schools for the second term by two weeks after the country recorded a sharp increase in COVID-19 infections in recent weeks.

The infection rate surged by 127% to 1 239 cases this week compared to 544 cases reported the previous week and educationists on Monday warned that opening schools on June 28 as earlier planned would be suicidal. Teachers want school holidays to be extended to August.

Government also imposed more localised lockdowns to stem the spread of the virus.

Addressing a post-Cabinet briefing, Information minister Monica Mutsvangwa said the surge in COVID-19 cases had informed the decision to delay schools opening by 14 days.

"In view of the regional and local upsurge of cases, the nation is informed that Cabinet approved that the reopening of schools and other learning institutions be delayed by 14 days. Government will be monitoring the situation and a review would be made after two weeks," she said.

"The number of active cases stands at 2 923. This represents a 127% increase," she said.

Mutsvangwa said the majority of cases were recorded in Hurungwe (364), Kariba (217), Chiredzi (185), and Makonde (51), adding that health personnel had already been deployed to COVID-19 hotspots where localised lockdowns were imposed.

On Monday, the country recorded 416 new cases and 13 deaths, bringing the total number of cases to 42 195.

Of those new infections, 415 were said to be local, while one case was of a returnee from South Africa.

On Sunday, the country had 174 hospitalised COVID-19 cases, 47 asymptomatic, 86 mild to moderate, 36 severe cases and five cases in the intensive care unit.

In Kwekwe, which is one of the COVID-19 hotspots after the Indian variant was detected there last month, Mutsvangwa said seven deaths were recorded from May 9 to June 20, including 160 new infections.

"There is going to be an urgent review of operations of the Polytechnic, markets, public transport and street vending in the city (Kwekwe) as their operations could be super spreaders and thus should be scaled down. Cabinet has agreed that the lockdown in Kwekwe be extended," she said.

The Information minister said border posts, especially Forbes, Chirundu and Kariba, tobacco auction floors and people's markets such as Renkini in Bulawayo, Mbare Musika in Harare and Sakubva in Mutare, as well as the Hwange population would be priority areas for vaccination.

She said the situation in hotspots of Kariba, Makonde and Hurungwe districts had hardly improved, with Kariba recording two deaths, Hurungwe 10, and Makonde five as at June 20.

In Kwekwe, government deployed army officers yesterday to enforce COVID-19 compliance in the central business district (CBD).

Officer commanding Kwekwe police, Chief Superintendent Denford Maingire told journalists that the operation was necessitated by complacency on the part of the public in the town who were not adhering to the COVID-19 lockdown measures.

"We have noted a lot of non-compliance by the community in Kwekwe and considering this non-compliance we had to close all non-essential services in the CBD," Maingire said.

"We will continue with this enforcement until July 3 and tomorrow (Wednesday). We will further intensify it (enforcement). We want to send a stern warning to businesses and others who are operating shebeens at night. Only essential services such as pharmacies, clinics and others shall remain open," he said.

Earlier, State Security minister Owen Ncube had addressed the Midlands COVID-19 taskforce in the city, where he expressed concern over the breach of COVID-19 protocols.

There were also reports that two students from Gweru Polytechnic tested positive to the coronavirus and were immediately quarantined.

The provincial COVID-19 taskforce said the students had been in contact with 100 people.

Other reports from Bindura stated that 40 cases of the virus were recorded yesterday at Bindura Prison.

An insider at the prison told NewsDay that the outbreak forced staff at Bindura Prison and the Bindura Magistrates Court to hold emergency meetings to deal with the issue.

"We recorded 40 cases of COVID-19 today at Bindura Prison and we had to conduct an emergency meeting with the magistrates' courts since they are also at high risk of contracting the deadly disease as we work hand-in-hand," the source, who declined to be named, said.

Efforts to get a comment from Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services (ZPCS) spokesperson were fruitless.

As the cases surge, Mutsvangwa said government was in the process of procuring two million more doses of the Chinese Sinovac vaccine, which were expected in the country by month end.

"Furthermore, 500 000 doses of vaccines are expected to be delivered this Saturday June 26, 2021," she said.

Medicines Control Authority of Zimbabwe spokesperson Shingai Gwatizo said the authority was ready to provide advice to manufacturers should they consider producing COVID-19 vaccines locally.

"MCAZ has also set up a small business support unit within its structures to be able to provide facilitative regulatory guidance to local pharmaceutical manufacturers in line with the thrust towards increased local production of Pharmaceuticals," he said.

Henry Madzorera, Health minister during the government of national unity between 2009 and 2013, said: "There is need for the country to come up with local solutions on COVID-19 vaccines."

So far, 704 001 people have received the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, while 436 851 have been fully vaccinated. The country hopes to vaccinate 60% of its population.

Source - NewsDay