BY MOSES MATENGA/PHYLLIS MBANJE/ LORRAINE MUROMO/SILENCE MUGADZAWETA
HEALTH professionals have accused government of allegedly concealing COVID-19 statistics in the country to give the impression that the virulent disease was under control at a time it has ballooned out of control, with nurses and doctors having been turned into “super spreaders”of the deadly virus.
Dozens of doctors and nurses recently reportedly tested positive to the COVID-19 virus, while others have since succumbed to the respiratory disease.
The country is currently grappling with the soaring numbers of COVID-19 infections that have risen to 33 548 and 1 234 deaths as of Monday.
The Zimbabwe Senior Doctors Association, in a statement yesterday, said the pandemic had become a vicious robber to the medical fraternity where it has killed several frontline workers.
“COVID-19 has been a vicious robber to the medical fraternity in Zimbabwe this year. We mourn our specialist surgeon brother Tendai Mutwira barely a week after losing Professor James Hakim,” the senior doctors said.
Bulawayo-based medical doctor, Cherifa Sururu also succumbed to COVID-19, while there were reports that 66 members of staff at Chinhoyi General Hospital tested positive to the virus this week.
Zimbabwe Nurses Association president Enock Dongo said it was heart-breaking that the government continued to ignore a High Court order compelling it to provide health professionals with adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) and other necessities to prevent them from contracting the virus during the course of their duties.
“We don’t have statistics of how many nurses nationally have been infected and affected by COVID-19. They (government) don’t want to give us that (statistics),” Dongo said.
“When we talk of COVID-19, everyone with a problem converges at a hospital. The same health workers exposed to COVID-19 use Zupco
buses on their way home, they use the same supermarkets with the rest of the people, and they go home to interact with tenants and family.
“You find that health workers are now the super spreaders of COVID-19, and without addressing the issue of protecting health workers through reducing the hours spent at hospitals and giving them proper PPEs, we are not going to succeed in controlling COVID-19,” he said.
Dongo said most hospitals and clinics had closed because they were struggling to cope with pressure.
“This has all been caused by the defiance of the High Court order by the (Health and Child Care) secretary (Jasper Chimedza) to decongest hospitals.”
He warned that the few health centres operating would soon result in the majority of their workforce being in quarantine.
“The moment you protect the health workers, you will be protecting the nation because their numbers to different locations, using public transport and spreading COVID-19. Those are simple things that a normal person should look into.”
Teclar Barangwe, member of the Medical Workers’ Union said private health institutions were also neglecting their workers, adding that one of the private clinics in the country recently lost a nurse to the pandemic on Sunday.
“We lost one of our nurses on Sunday and the majority of workers are testing positive to COVID-19. Employers are refusing to pay COVID-19 allowances. The majority of centres are now taking COVID-19 patients, but are refusing to pay workers’ allowances. The issue of medication for workers who test positive is also an issue of concern. The employers are not taking care of them,” she said.
In a statement on COVID-19 yesterday which was issued by Information minister Monica Mutsvangwa, government claimed that the surge in COVID-19 cases was now under control, but did not mention anything about the health workers.
Mutsvangwa warned those that continued to flout COVID-19 regulations, saying to date 21 647 people had been arrested.
Meanwhile, China has pledged to assist the troubled Zimbabwean government with COVID-19 vaccines together with 12 other developing countries.
“Zimbabwe will be one of the first 13 countries to receive vaccine aid from China very soon,” Chinese ambassador to Zimbabwe, Guo Shaochun said on his official Twitter handle.
The Asian giant’s Foreign Affairs ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin also issued a statement saying Zimbabwe and other developing countries that include Belarus, Equatorial Guinea and Sierra Leone will get the vaccines to combat the coronavirus.
“Firstly, apart from Pakistan, China is also providing vaccine aid to Brunei, Nepal, the Philippines, Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos, Sri Lanka, Mongolia, Pakistan, Belarus, Sierra Leone, Zimbabwe and Equatorial Guinea, altogether 13 developing countries,” the Chinese Foreign Affairs ministry spokesperson said.
It was not clear when China would avail the vaccine to Zimbabwe.
Reports also reveal that Zimbabweans based in South Africa will benefit from the COVID-19 vaccination programme, which will be rolled out soon in the neighbouring country.
This was revealed by South African President Cyril Ramaphosa on Tuesday night, while addressing the nation.
South Africa has secured over 40 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines, which will be rolled out in phases.
“We aim to make the vaccine available to all adults in SA, regardless of their citizenship or residence status. We will be putting in place measures to deal with the challenge of undocumented migrants so that, as with all other people, we can properly record and track their vaccination history,” Ramaphosa said.
Executive director of the Community Working Group on Health (CWGH) Itai Rusike said he was concerned that the 2021 National Budget did not allocate additional resources to fight COVID-19 in the country.
“This will impact negatively on the government’s capacity to deliver proper and decent healthcare, and in turn, an extensive national vaccination programme. We also need better human resourcing if we are to adequately respond to this pandemic,” Rusike said.
While some Zimbabweans have expressed doubt about accepting the COVID-19 vaccines, the director of the Africa Centre for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention, John Nkengasong for African Union encouraged Africans to accept the vaccines.
“There is need to strengthen capacity (vaccine manufacturing) as part of our health security apparatus on the continent. There are three things that you need to guarantee your health security in terms of emerging disease; the ability to manufacture vaccines, the ability to produce diagnosis and the ability to manufacture drugs. If you miss any of the three, you are struck with the ability to fight effectively any pandemic,” he said during a CDC weekly Press briefing.
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