By Herald Reporters
The number of confirmed Covid-19 positive cases jumped to 132 by yesterday from the 56 that were recorded by Sunday, with all 76 new cases, bar one, being recorded from quarantine centres housing returning citizens and residents.
Giving the update after the Cabinet meeting yesterday, Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister Monica Mutsvangwa said there was only one new case of an infection within Zimbabwe. The other 75 were in the centres where people arriving from South Africa and Botswana have to stay until the authorities know they are not infected.
The statistics were given in a weekly report presented by the chairperson of Inter-Ministerial Task Force on Covid-19, Vice President Kembo Mohadi.
“Most of the tests, which yielded these results were done on returnees who are quarantined in Masvingo, Beitbridge and Harare. The number of those who have recovered from Covid-19 infection has increased from 18 recorded on May 17, 2020 to the current 25, while the number of deaths remains at four. The number of active cases now therefore stands at 103.”
The number of Covid-19 tests conducted so far had increased from 31 589 recorded on May 17 to 38 656.
Minister Mutsvangwa said following reports of people escaping from quarantine centres, security had been boosted while police were working with traditional and local leadership to report any known returnees that may have run away from the centres.
She also said Cabinet agreed that additional PCR testing equipment and materials be bought, that priority for testing will be given to quarantine centres and those who came into contact with positive cases.
Funding priorities also include construction of border roads, procurement of drones and other related technical equipment in order to enable enforcement agents to monitor the country’s borders effectively.
Health and Child Care Minister Dr Obadiah Moyo said Government would ensure the safety of pupils and teachers when schools open by carrying out strict screening and hand washing while institutions that were being used as quarantine centres would be disinfected.
Government would also increase the budget of the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education by 40 percent with some of the money going towards purchase of personnel protective equipment.
The ministry was allocated $8,5 billion in last year’s budget.
National Covid-19 Coordinator in the Office of the President and Cabinet Dr Agnes Mahomva earlier stressed the need to secure quarantine facilities and ports of entry since most confirmed cases were imported and the high risk areas were now the quarantine centres and border posts.
“What this means is that we need to further strengthen our response such as screening, testing and follow ups in these areas, which have now become high risk zones to Covid-19. This is what we call science-based interventions, using the data that we have and World Health Organisation guidelines to shape our programming,” said Dr Mahomva.
She said even statistics of returnees absconding from quarantining facilities were crucial in designing the rightful interventions for the country.
“While we acknowledge and never ran away from the fact that we do have challenges and gaps here and there, that data is also essential in our programming. What it tells us is that we need to up our game and focus more on these now high risk areas.”
She said many embassies had confirmed that they were handling enquiries from more Zimbabweans that want to return home, raising fears that more cases would be recorded.
Acting permanent secretary in the Ministry of Health and Child Care Dr Gibson Mhlanga said they had put measures to prevent spread of the disease within the quarantine centres by separating those infected from those that are negative and emphasising good personal hygiene and social distancing.
“There are so many challenges regarding tracking some of the returnees. Some of them will tell you that they do not have any documentation and proceed to give you false addresses, making it difficult to track them when they escape and even for follow up visits,” said Dr Mhlanga.
He, however, said going forward, they were considering engaging with Zimpost to verify addresses of all suspected cases and their next of kin here in Zimbabwe as soon as they get into the quarantine facility.
Meanwhile, police officer commanding Beitbridge District, Chief Superintendent Tichaona Nyongo said the district beefed up security to enhance safety at the National Social Security Hotel where returnees are being housed before being moved to quarantine facilities close to their homes.
Police had deployed officers to the NSSA isolation centre and the hotel’s parameter.
Beitbridge Covid-19 Task Force chairperson Mrs Sikhangazile Mafu Moyo said Government was working on upgrading another isolation centre to carry 30 people. This isolation centre is to treat infected people and this new one will be in the Beitbridge District Hospital’s female wards.
“Work is almost complete and the Department of Public Works is finalising plumbing-related works,” she said.
An additional 164 people are expected to return home by road via Beitbridge between today and tomorrow (Thursday and Friday) under the self-repatriation programme.