As the number of confirmed Covid-19 cases in Zimbabwe passed 1 700 yesterday, with more than half the patients infected within the country, the Government has decided that only civil servants providing essential services should now report for work while Chinhoyi University of Technology should close after a lecturer tested positive.
After a meeting of the national Covid-19 taskforce, Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Service Minister Senator Monica Mutsvangwa said the two decisions were a reaction to the rising number of local infections and deaths.
Latest figures from the Ministry of Health and Child Care show that 133 new infections were confirmed on Sunday, 116 of them local, and 102 new infections yesterday, 81 of them local infections within Zimbabwe including one death in Matabeleland North found after a routine post mortem test.
This brings the total number of confirmed cases to 1 713 with 26 deaths. But the growing trend is of more community infections rather than imported infections found in quarantine centres, the total number now confirmed to have been infected within Zimbabwe is 872, with those returning residents being found positive while in quarantine numbering 841. For the first time local infections outnumber those among returnees.
Bulawayo is still the worst hit province and city, with 490 of the local infections and 12 of the deaths, with Harare on 212 local infections and eight deaths.
So far 472 people are confirmed as recovered.
Speaking on the taskforce decisions, Minister Mutsvangwa said: “The taskforce directed that only those civil servants who were approved by the Public Service Commission to provide essential service should report for work, with the rest remaining in lockdown. The taskforce also received a presentation on the distribution of local positive cases across the country, which cannot be linked to an identifiable source. While these positive cases are dotted throughout the country, they are mostly concentrated in Bulawayo and Harare.”
The closure of Chinhoyi University of Technology followed standard policy.
“Following the recorded infection at the Chinhoyi University of Technology and in line with the guidelines for the re-opening of universities and colleges, the taskforce resolved that the said institution undertake all necessary and sensible steps to close,” said Minister Mutsvangwa.
Several private companies, finding an infection or cluster of infection in a business unit have followed the same policy, closing the unit temporarily while full disinfection and testing is done before there is any decision to reopen the unit.
With the spikes now being seen the Government will not be continuing to ease lockdown provisions.
“The country remains under lockdown and as such the Government continues to provide food to the vulnerable in our communities and also to those who have been severely economically affected by this lockdown,” Minister Mutsvangwa said.
So far 202 077 people had benefited from the Covid-19 informal sector relief fund, which is targeting 1 million beneficiaries. A lot of people in the informal sector have been unable to earn their living since the lockdown was instituted.
Minister Mutsvangwa said Zimbabwe was getting aid from China for borehole drilling in Masvingo and Manicaland provinces with priority being given to schools.
Last week, the Cabinet deferred reopening of primary and secondary schools.
Acting Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health and Child Care Dr Gibson Mhlanga yesterday allayed fears that official figures were not inclusive of cases being recorded in the private sector press statements.
All results of all Covid-19 tests carried out at accredited laboratories are sent to the ministry immediately after they become available.
“The laboratories that do the tests report to the ministry so that we collate the information and communicate it through our daily bulletins,” said Dr Mhlanga.
He said organisations have an obligation to communicate with their staff and clients on new health developments.
“Companies have the prerogative to inform their stakeholders if cases have been recorded. Organisations doing so are not flaunting any rules; it is above board,” he said.
“The problem is people sometimes think information is being hidden. Some may even say they know of cases that happened in other places and use that as a basis for saying we are not painting the full picture, which is not true,” said Dr Mhlanga.
Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Permanent Secretary Mr Nick Mangwana said Government has begun tightening screws around the movement of people in response to the spike.
“Security is being tightened to ensure only essential services can be allowed through to central business districts,” Mr Mangwana wrote on his Twitter.
Employers have also begun working on modalities to decongest their workspaces.
South Africa has recorded 5 033 deaths from 364 328 cases of Covid-19, with around half of all infected people now recovered. This is the fifth highest number of cases in the world, although South African death rates are far lower than countries with similar totals.