‘No Zim national infected with COVID-19 in China’

Source: ‘No Zim national infected with COVID-19 in China’ | Sunday Mail (Top Stories)

Thupeyo Muleya
Beitbridge Bureau

GOVERNMENT says it has not received reports of any Zimbabweans infected by the coronavirus among the 300 nationals studying and working in the Chinese city of Wuhan, Hubei province, the epicentre of the virus.

In a statement yesterday, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade urged calm on the part of all concerned, particularly as there are indications that the situation may have begun to turn for the better.

“It is important to mention that the ministry, together with other Government departments, is working closely with the Chinese Embassy in Harare to minimise chances of the virus spreading to Zimbabwe,” read the statement.

“The Government of China has pledged to assist as best it can to ensure the safety of Zimbabweans in the affected areas. The ministry is grateful for that support, as indeed it appreciates the efforts of other cooperating partners and well-wishers including the Diaspora, who have been mobilising resources to mitigate the challenges occasioned by the outbreak of the virus.”

The statement  comes as Government has tightened screws at Beitbridge Border Post where all travellers are screened for coronavirus (Covid-19) at the port health section, before being cleared for passage by the Department of Im migration.

Under the new system, all travellers are being screened. Upon assessment, the travellers are given a clearance pass, which they then produce along with their passports for processing by immigration officers.

However, this is not the case on the South African side where it is understood authorities are only screening people who are known to have travelled to specified affected countries.

The coronavirus screenings at Beitbridge follow the detection of two confirmed cases of the fast spreading virus in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng provinces this week.

More health workers have been deployed to the port health section and are operating a screening centre round the clock.

The Covid-19 Screening Centre is located in a cubicle outside the main immigration and customs hall where health officers are marshalling all travellers for diagnosis.

A quarantine centre has been set up within the border post to handle suspected cases before onward transmission to Thorngrove Infectious Diseases Hospital in Bulawayo which is set to handle all cases from the southern parts of the country.

Assistant regional immigration officer in charge of Beitbridge Border Post, Mr Nqobile Ncube, said no traveller will be cleared for passage into Zimbabwe before undergoing screening at the port health section.

“It is important for travellers to adhere to set procedures when they get to the border post. The travellers must first report to the Port Health for screening where they are given the greenlight to proceed with immigration formalities. We are glad that the process is going on smoothly,” said Mr Ncube.

He said they were yet to record any changes in the numbers of people leaving or entering the country through Beitbridge Border Post.

The official said they were clearing an average of 6 500 travellers and 70 buses on both sides of the border daily.

Speaking during a national clean-up campaign in Gutu on Friday, President Mnangagwa said Government was ready to deal with any cases of coronavirus.

He said the Ministry of Health and Child Care had already requested more funding to augment its capacity to deal with the disease on the ground.

Besides tightening screening procedures at all ports of entry, Government has also moved to ensure all hospitals are equipped with requisite materials to handle coronavirus cases.

Secretary for  Health and Child Care Dr Agnes Mahomva told this publication on Friday that Wilkins and Thorngrove, at national level, were the main referral centres for coronavirus cases but preparedness cascades down to provincial and district levels.

“But there is no way a port of entry coronavirus case, for instance, can be ferried all the way to Wilkins or Thorngrove from Beitbridge. The patient has to be isolated there.

“Which is why every district hospital and clinic is being equipped. But when things get complicated they obviously have to refer them to the central levels such as Thorngrove and Wilkins,” said Dr Mahomva.

In terms of the country’s alert levels, Dr Mahomva said: “The alert level that was given by the World Health Organisation (WHO) covers most countries and that covers us as well, so we stick with that.”

“WHO has instituted the Highest Alert Level, the Philippines raised its coronavirus alert system to Code Red Sublevel 1, NHS England raised theirs to Level 4 while the US’ Centre for Diseases Control (CDC) has raised that country’s emergency warning to Level 3.

In a statement yesterday, South Africa’s Health Minister, Dr Zwelini Mkhize, said they were committed to work against the uncontrollable spread of Covid-19 in that country.

“The Minister of Health wishes to advise all South Africans that the second case of Covid-19 has now been confirmed in South Africa,” said Dr Mkhize.

“The 39-year-old lady, who is from Gauteng, is a direct contact to the first case from KwaZulu-Natal. She was part of the group of 10 that had travelled to Italy. The public must be notified that we have information and know the whereabouts of all the other 10 people who were part of the group that travelled to Italy.

“All those who came back to South Africa are currently being tested. We now await their test results. Since being traced, they have remained in isolation to avoid any further contact with third parties.”

Dr Mkhize said the second patient who tested positive for Covid-19 was immediately admitted at a public health facility in Gauteng designated to receive Covid-19 positive patients.

He said another 39-year-old South African man who works for their embassy in Daegu, South Korea, had also tested positive for Covid-19.

“He was due to return to South Africa and has since remained in South Korea. We are now following up with the South Korean authorities, firstly to obtain formal confirmation of this case and also the details of where our citizen is being treated.

“We continue to call for calm and co-operation from the public and the media during this period. We also request that the privacy of the patients, the affected individuals and families be respected,” he said.