SINCE the first COVID-19 case in Zimbabwe early this year, the country has done well in managing the situation. Even though cases have been rising, it was encouraging that deaths have been stagnant. The number of recoveries was also on an upward trajectory.
While we appreciate the divine favour in cases of COVID-19 prevalence, we are alive to the fact that the low numbers that we have in Zimbabwe are no doubt attributed to our low testing capacity.
However, last week will be remembered as one of the darkest episodes for Zimbabwe as coronavirus cases more than doubled in a day — from 56 to 132 and then to 160 before the weekend was out.
This is a rude wake up call for the country. If 76 people can test positive in one day and assuming that the virus was imported, then there is something wrong with our ports of entry and quarantine centres. It seems imported cases have hastened degrees of local transmission at quarantine centres. It is a fact that quarantine centres are the new hotspots for COVID-19 transmission.
It’s disheartening to hear that more than 130 returnees have escaped from quarantine centres, putting the lives of our populace at risk.
If the country is to move in the right direction in controlling the spread of COVID-19, we should up our game on testing, contact tracing and isolating and security around the quarantine centres. It also speaks to our poverty that returnees can bribe their way out, with no thought as to the consequences of such actions. In a normally functioning economy, there is no need for such clearly dangerous behaviour to be allowed but the stomach and greed appear to have first call among our grossly underpaid public officials.
Testing should be prompt and results should be availed as soon as possible as delays in releasing them may give a false sense of security to some returnees.
Moreso, there would be no reason of putting returnees in those centres when the minimal public health practices – wearing face masks and social distancing – are not being practised in the quarantine centres.
Those coming from high-risk countries should be separated from those coming from low-risk areas. The fact that our borders are porous will not help Zimbabwe’s cause in the fight against the virulent virus.
Border patrols should be strengthened with more security agents being deployed, especially along Limpopo River to curtail illegal entry. If such loopholes are not plugged, this would present a health time that could detonate anytime. Our porous borders are now the greatest threat to winning the war against COVID-19, along with corruption and the incompetence at the Health ministry.
Testing, isolation and contact tracing should remain our pillars if this war against COVID-19 is to be won. No need for slackening.