Daniel Nemukuyu in Harare and Masimba Mavaza in the United Kingdom
At least 29 Zimbabweans living in Britain have died of Covid-19, mostly nurses and other medical staff, according to the Zimbabwean Embassy in London.
The pandemic has so far killed at least 18 738 in Britain, while in Zimbabwe four have died.
Britain is one of the countries hardest hit by the Covid-19 pandemic.
In a statement, the Embassy said while it had no official figures it “has been able to gather information from the Diaspora community and religious leaders, cluster leaders, affected individuals and the media, on Zimbabweans who have passed on due to Covid-19”.
Sources in the UK said most of the deceased were nurses and other frontline health workers. Zimbabweans with nursing and medical qualifications have found it relatively easy to legally work in Britain.
Explaining the lack of official figures, the Embassy said: “To date, the Embassy has not received updated information from the host Government on the deaths of Zimbabweans due to Covid-19, understandably because the British government has explained that it is currently seized with implementing measures to contain the pandemic. They have promised to provide detailed information as soon as it is possible.”
The Embassy has hailed cordial relations between Zimbabwe and Britain, which have seen the donation of medical supplies to Zimbabwe.
“Zimbabwe-United Kingdom relations continue to improve. The two countries have witnessed increased diplomatic exchanges which have opened avenues of enhanced communication and collaboration in health, education, tourism, trade and investment.
“The British Government recently announced a US$43,6 million aid package towards Covid-19 medical supplies to assist in fighting the pandemic in Zimbabwe. This generous gesture, among others, is indicative of the growing bilateral and diplomatic relations between the two countries,” reads the statement.
Ambassador Christian Katsande, according to the statement, has established platforms to interact with Zimbabweans in the UK, such relations have also assisted in the compilation of Covid-19 statistics.
“He set up clusters that include (health cluster, education cluster, agriculture cluster, infrastructure and financial services cluster) to assist in coordinating activities and communication between the Embassy and the Diaspora community. The Embassy has also cultivated mutually beneficial relationships with various Zimbabwean community and religious leaders across the United Kingdom,” the Embassy said.
During the UK lockdown, the Embassy said it will continue serving its nationals, rendering assistance whenever it is required.
“The Embassy, as per its mandate to offer consular services to all Zimbabweans in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and Ireland, facilitates applications for passports, birth certificates and the Temporary Travel Document for those without or have lost their Zimbabwean travel documents or identity documents.
“The Embassy also provides documents required for the repatriation of deceased nationals, particularly those who passed on without adequate Zimbabwean documents.
“Despite the lockdown, the Embassy continues to provide a more efficient and user-friendly service to the public.”
With so many Zimbabweans in the nursing field in Britain, they are now particularly vulnerable. Care workers, according to sources, work with vulnerable population of the society. This puts 60 000 Zimbabweans in England at risk of being infected.
“It shows the incredible bravery of every member of the National Health Services who goes into work knowing that these dangers are there. The coronavirus continues its grim march, but every life lost makes me Zimbabwean, determined than ever to push for victory,” said one Zimbawbean nurse.
Another Zimbabwean nurse said she lost a brother, had two uncles who were critically ill, had lost a cousin and a friend.
“It has psychological impact on the whole family. It’s a really difficult time. Even within my community I know a lot of families who have lost loved ones due to coronavirus.
“You get to a point where you don’t want to pick up the phone. You are just constantly worried and you are frightened who is next, or who has been taken to hospital.”