Zimbabwe on high alert for coronavirus

Workers put finishing touches on the new sign at Zimbabwe's main international airport in Harare renamed after Zimbabwean President Robert Gabriel Mugabe on November 9, 2017 in Harare, Zimbabwe. Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe attended a ceremony re-naming Harare Airport in his honour on Thursday, as his sacking of the vice president fuelled speculation over his succession plans.The 93-year-old president unveiled a plaque at the newly named Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport, located 15 kilometers (nine miles) outside the centre of the capital. The refurbishment of the airport has been condemned by opposition figures as a waste of money. / AFP PHOTO / Jekesai NJIKIZANA

Health authorities have swiftly moved to limit possible ways the deadly coronavirus originating from China can get into the country by increasing screening and monitoring of possible threats at all points of entry.

The Chinese city of Wuhan is the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak, where 81 deaths have been confirmed, 3 000 cases reported, of which 400 are critical, while cases have been reported in 10 other countries, including Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom.

Speaking during a tour of screening and control facilities at Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport in Harare yesterday, Health minister Obadiah Moyo said they were doing everything possible and were on high alert to make sure the virus does not find its way into the country.

“If the virus is to come to Zimbabwe, we have to catch it at the ports of entry. Screening points have been set up at all major ports of entry. Every aspect of the system is highly functional and this is not a condition from within, so it should be easier to deal with,” he said.

Moyo said an arrangement had been made to contain suspected carriers of the virus until they are cleared.

“If one is confirmed to be having symptoms of the virus as they come into the country, they will be taken for care at the PSMAS Clinic, which is just across the road (at the airport). If they test positive, they will be ferried to Wilkins Hospital, which we have set up as an isolation centre,” he said.

“Our staff at the two major referral centres need to be trained to deal with the situation in case an outbreak takes place. For now, we keep our fingers crossed. We hope people coming in are safe and if they are not, we follow up on them for at least 21 days.”

Moyo said government was treating the matter as a security threat while they will depend on, Kaletra, an antiretroviral, which has been taken as an emergency drug to treat the virus.

“We, however, need to stock-up more on medicine which is recommended to fight the virus, even though we have supply of Kaletra already in the country,” he said.

Zimbabwe has been found wanting in terms of disaster preparedness, with past cholera outbreaks and the 2019 Cyclone Idai serving as proof of the deficiency in alertness.