BY MOSES MATENGA
HARARE City Council yesterday said it was overwhelmed by the soaring number of COVID-19 cases, which has turned it into the epicentre of the pandemic.
Acting mayor Stewart Mutizwa said the city’s health delivery system was overwhelmed as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to spiral out of control.
“As I speak, our great city has become the country’s coronavirus epicentre as figures continue to spiral beyond our control and that of an already overwhelmed health delivery system,” Mutizwa said.
“We had hoped that maybe a new year would bring in better expectations against the coronavirus and many of us had relaxed and were no longer practising any preventative measures.”
Harare has been recording over 700 cases daily in the past weeks, with many people appealing for oxygen and ventilators on social media as both private and public health
facilities are failing to cope with the surge.
The country went on a more strict lockdown starting on Tuesday as Information secretary Ndavaningi Mangwana warned at the weekend that Zimbabwe would soon be overwhelmed by the virus.
The country as of yesterday had recorded 17 194 cases and 418 deaths, with Tuesday alone recording 34 fatalities and 1 365 new infections. Of the Tuesday infections, 777 were from Harare which also recorded 10 deaths.
Mutizwa said residents should act responsibly in times like these to curb the spread of the deadly disease.
Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights (ZADHR) secretary-general Norman Matara said Harare’s public hospitals had only 30 ICU beds.
“The problem is, very few institutions are admitting COVID-19 patients because bed capacity is very low in public hospitals,” Matara told Al Jazeera news agency.
“This means that patients requiring these services will die at home. The few private facilities admitting patients are charging an arm and a leg,” he said, adding that there was need to increase the bed capacity of public hospitals to cope with rising demand.
“When the Health minister (Vice-President) Constantino Chiwenga, made his announcement, I think he dwelt too much on the preventive side of things and did not focus on the curative side, the vaccine logistics, how they are going to provide PPE (personal protective eqipment) for frontline workers. A lockdown will slow down the infections after 30 days, but that is not the solution,” Matara said.
In a statement, ZADHR said the growing figures of health personnel being infected with COVID-19 in the course of their duties was worrying.
“Our conservative estimates point towards 1 000 health workers being infected with COVID-19,” the doctors said while threatening court action to force the government to avail PPE.
The acting Harare mayor also warned vendors and other informal traders against defying lockdown regulations saying: “The city would want to warn vendors and other small-to-medium enterprises that have defied the government directive and continue to operate that the long arm of the law will catch up with them and they should stop forthwith all their operations.”
“Transport operators continue plying certain routes in the city, mainly those that do not pass through the central business district. These routes include Dzivarasekwa-Machipisa, Westgate-Warren Park, Machipisa-Chitungwiza and other local routes. I would like to urge transport operators to stop and consider the health of fellow residents ahead of monetary gains.”
“Our frontline staff is already overwhelmed and let us not overburden them purposely. Let us put the little resources to good use by using them on deserving patients. We do not want to see unlicensed commuter omnibus operators on our roads, evading law enforcement agents yet spreading diseases,” the acting mayor said.
He added: “We want people indoors for the good of society not for selfish reasons. In the same vein, let me urge residents to stay indoors and help the nation to fight this disease. Together we can beat this.”
Mutizwa said council was taking the lockdown as an opportunity to clean the city centre that had seen dirt piling in recent months.
Meanwhile, government yesterday said it had availed $7 billion to motivate and employ more health workers.
Addressing journalists in Harare last night, Health deputy minister John Mangwiro said the money would also be used to procure test kits, PPE, sundries and sanitisers, as well as improve health infrastructure.
“Government has cumulatively availed S7 billion to motivate and employ more health workers, procure test kits, PPE sundries and sanitisers and improve infrastructure,” Mangwiro said.
“The government is rolling out rapid antigen testing for symptomatic patients and this will go a long way in decongesting our emergency rooms and improving the triaging process.”
“Government has procured 156 000 kits for testing and these are being distributed throughout the country.”
Mangwiro said the number of COVID-19 deaths from community transmission was worrying, hence the need for people to respect the lockdown currently in place to control the spread of the virus.
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