Our people turned away from hospitals in Zimbabwe, says China

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HARARE – Some Chinese nationals in Zimbabwe have been denied access to health care since the Covid-19 outbreak though their cases were not related to the pandemic, says Beijing’s representative in Harare.

Guo Shaochun, China’s ambassador to Zimbabwe, made the claim after complaints by African countries that their nationals were subjected to forced quarantines and testing for the coronavirus in the Asian country.

Shaonchun called the cases in China “sensationalised” and “isolated incidents of what is misunderstanding caused by insufficient communication”.

He said some Chinese citizens were being unfairly treated in Zimbabwe.

“Since March, Zimbabwe has seen a series of cases in which Chinese nationals, with medical conditions unrelated to Covid-19, were refused treatment by local hospitals. Some Chinese individuals were verbally and physically abused in the street,” he said in a statement.

These cases were not in the public domain because “the Chinese embassy, Chinese nationals and journalists in Zimbabwe chose to inform the Zimbabwean authorities” rather than going to the media.

Zimbabwe has 14 cases of Covid-19 and three deaths from 547 tests in a population of about 15 million. Minister of local government, public works and national housing July Moyo, a member of the Covid-19 task force, told journalists that more needed to be done.

“The numbers (of positive Covid-19 cases) are few but we must not be satisfied about that because our testing is also very little. When the number of testing (samples) goes up, we think we will have more cases,” he said.

So far the majority of positive cases are in Harare metropolitan province which accounts for two deaths, Bulawayo with one death and Victoria Falls where the only positive case is recuperating at home.

So far no positive cases have been identified in the rest of the country. Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights said this “reflects the minimal focus on the regions outside Harare”.

Zimbabwe’s main COVID-19 isolation and treatment center, Wilkins Hospital, which was upgraded by Chinese enterprises at a cost of more than 500,000 U.S. dollars, has been completed.

As part of efforts to strengthen Zimbabwe’s capacity to handle the coronavirus, the Chinese business community in Zimbabwe, together with the Chinese embassy, mobilized resources to revamp the Wilkins Hospital.

The hospital was mandated to treat suspected and confirmed COVID-19 patients from across the country but dilapidated infrastructure at the hospital hampered the government efforts to curb the spread of the virus in the country.

The rehabilitation program, which started on March 13 and completed on March 30, included renovations of the hospital’s dilapidated infrastructure and the addition of previously unavailable intensive care beds.

Chinese Ambassador to Zimbabwe Guo Shaochun (5th R) and Zimbabwean Health Minister Obadiah Moyo (2nd L) visit Wilkins Hospital in Harare, Zimbabwe, on March 5, 2020. (Photo by Shaun Jusa/Xinhua)

Speaking at the launch ceremony of the project, Zimbabwe’s Health Minister Obadiah Moyo thanked Chinese business community for upgrading the hospital, saying the assistance will greatly improve the country’s diagnosis and treatment of COVID-19 patients.

Chinese Ambassador to Zimbabwe Guo Shaochun said that relevant Chinese companies also provided medical equipment including masks, goggles and medication to the Zimbabwean government. In addition, the Chinese Embassy also donated protective equipment to Zimbabwe’s health ministry.

Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa also expressed sincere gratitude to the Chinese government and Chinese enterprises for boosting government efforts in controlling the spread of COVID-19 in the country.

Zimbabwe has so far recorded seven confirmed cases of COVID-19, with one person succumbing to the disease.

Meanwhile, workers at Sino Hydro Corporation — a Chinese-owned power utility company — say they will sue their employer for failure to provide protective clothing and safe shelter for its 400 employees working at the US$1.4-bn Hwange Thermal Power Station expansion project.