HARARE (Bloomberg) –Daily coronavirus cases in Zimbabwe surged to the highest since the start of the pandemic, after the emergence of the omicron variant and as the government increases testing.
The southern African nation recorded 4,031 new infections on Tuesday, surpassing the previous record of 3,110 reached during a third wave of infections in July, according to Health Ministry data. All infections for Dec. 7 were domestic cases, signaling a rise in community transmission, it said.
The positivity rate — the percentage of processed tests that are positive — is 35%, according to the ministry. That compares with 1.4% two weeks ago.
“At the moment we are at the stage of mass infections and rising hospitalizations, which is an ominous sign,” Solwayo Ngwenya, the acting chief executive officer at Mpilo Hospital, said by phone from the nation’s second-biggest city of Bulawayo.
Agnes Mahomva, the co-ordinator of Zimbabwe’s national Covid-19 task-force, said infections are expected to increase after the discovery of the omicron virus last month.
“It is very clear that the inevitable is now here,” she said by phone from the capital, Harare.
Health authorities have increased testing as part of “mitigation and control measures,” with 11,535 tests carried out on Tuesday compared with 2,500 done on Dec. 6, Mahomva said.
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Disruptions to business because of the surge in infections are increasing, with the University of Zimbabwe announcing a suspension of in-person classes from Dec. 9, a week earlier than planned for its end-of-year break. The Judicial Services Commission, which has oversight of the country’s judiciary, said on Wednesday operations at the High Court and several magistrate’s courts will be suspended.
Zimbabwe is targeting vaccinating 60% of its 15 million population by year-end. Less than 3 million people, or about 20% of the population, have so far been fully vaccinated.