The Ministry of Health and Child Care yesterday stressed that there is no confirmed case of the new coronavirus causing COVID-19 in Zimbabwe and the Thai man who escaped from the isolation unit on Sunday had already been in the country longer than the incubation period.
While health authorities were keen to have a test to confirm the man was negative, and were looking for him, they were not worried since he had passed the incubation period without symptoms.
According to the ministry, the patient, a Thai, who returned from his home country on February 14, was taken to Wilkins Infectious Diseases Hospital on Sunday after he had visited a private clinic in Harare where he reported a two-day history of coughing, mainly at night, fever and sneezing.
Before any samples could be taken on him, the patient, who was accompanied by his father and two other men, sped off from the hospital.
City Health Director Dr Prosper Chonzi said the patient had, however, passed the incubation period and was not coming from the coronavirus epicentre.
“While we are looking for him so that we are satisfied that he does not have the virus for sure, we are not very worried because he had since passed his incubation period. He arrived in the country on February 14 from Thailand. Moreso, while Thailand also has cases, the outbreak is not as huge as it is in other countries of concern,” said Dr Chonzi.
The Ministry said: ” . . . would like to assure the nation that to date, there is no confirmed case of COVID-19 in Zimbabwe. Preparedness measures continue to be stepped up with the training of health care workers from the Southern region currently taking place in Kadoma.”
Meanwhile, Health and Child Care Minister Dr Obadiah Moyo has reiterated that Zimbabwe has the capacity to test and confirm any suspected cases of the 2019 novel coronavirus (Covid-19) using equipment at Sally Mugabe Central Hospital amid concerns that the country might not have the capacity to test for the virus.
The equipment, a Roche, Hologis, Nenuclisense and the Quanti-Studio takes between two to six hours respectively to produce results. Samples can either be of blood or swabs.
The laboratories have a capacity to make at least 1 000 samples per day. The country is working towards getting rapid test kits, which can produce results within 30 minutes.
Speaking after visiting the coronavirus testing laboratory in Harare recently, Dr Moyo said laboratory confirmation was the absolute diagnosis for coronavirus.
“Laboratory confirmation gives you the absolute diagnosis of the patient. We start with suspects upon suspects based on the signs and symptoms then a laboratory test is the one that is most essential of confirming that someone is a carrier of a particular organism and in this case, 2019 novel coronavirus,” said Dr Moyo.
“They can do quite a lot of samples in a very short space of time. They can get up to 96 results within a two-hour period. But we want to move further. We are also sourcing for rapid test quicks which should give us results within 30 minutes.”
He said laboratory scientists have since been trained to use the equipment. So far, coronavirus laboratory tests are only done in Harare, after which samples are also sent to South Africa for confirmation.
Coronavirus is a highly contagious virus that has so far killed over 3 700 people and left over 100 000 others infected of the disease, a majority of whom are from China, although China’s infection rate has now slowed to a handful of a cases a day and the number in treatment down by two thirds from the peak.
More African countries record cases of Covid-19 with South Africa confirming seven cases as of yesterday