Zimbabwe coronavirus crisis caught up in never ending political conflict

President Emmerson Mnangagwa and MDC Alliance President Nelson Mnangagwa

HARARE – The government and the opposition-run Harare City Council yesterday issued conflicting reports about coronavirus cases in Zimbabwe with Health and Child Care minister Obadiah Moyo insisting that only two people have tested positive so far.

MDC leader Nelson Chamisa early in the morning said he had been informed by council officials that two people had tested positive for the virus at Wilkins Hospital — the designated coronavirus isolation centre in Harare — and this would have brought the number of cases in Zimbabwe to three.

Chamisa’s claim was corroborated by Harare mayor Herbert Gomba. Councils runs Wilkins Hospital.

Zimbabwe recorded its first coronavirus case on Friday after a Victoria Falls resident, who recently travelled to the United Kingdom tested positive.

Moyo made the announcement about the second case later in the afternoon. He said the 30-year-old man from Harare had recently travelled to New York on February 29 and returned home on March 9 via Johanesburg.

“He started exhibiting symptoms of flu-like illness on March 12, which progressively got worse on March 19,” Moyo said.

“He consulted with his doctor who advised him to self-isolate at home.

“The doctor alerted the local Covid-19 rapid response team that went immediately to assess him and recommended that he continues with self-isolation at home.

“[On Friday] evening he developed severe respiratory distress and after stabilisation at home, was admitted for isolation and clinical management at Wilkins Hospital, the reference lab, confirmed his Covid-19 positive results early this morning.”

Agnes Mahomva, the Health and Child Care permanent secretary, accused Gomba of jumping the gun by making the announcement.

“The mayor has jumped the gun, our position as the government is, two cases have been recorded in this country,” Mahomva told The Standard.

“Remember our ministry is the one that tests Covid-19 at our laboratory and they can only know that position through our ministry.”

Gomba said council was mobilising $10 million to increase the capacity of Wilkins Hospital to accommodate between 100 and 500 patients in light of the coronavirus cases in Zimbabwe.

“We can confirm two new cases of Covid-19 and we are working with the Ministry of Health and other stakeholders to make sure that the situation is under control,” he said.

“Wilkins Hospital is being upgraded and we are looking to accommodate 100 to 500 patients on its completion.

“We are looking at harnessing resources to the tune of $10 million to make sure that every person in the suburbs is made aware of the consequences of this deadly disease.

Zimbabwe’s capacity to handle the coronavirus outbreak has been questioned amid fears that the country’s fragile health delivery system would be overwhelmed if cases escalate.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa last week issued a decree banning gatherings of more than 100 people in an effort to prevent an outbreak of the disease that has killed thousands of people across the globe.

Mnangagwa also ordered the closure of schools, colleges and universities on Tuesday. – The Standard