Joseph Madzimure and Nyore Madzianike
WORK to upgrade Wilkins Infectious Disease Hospital is almost complete after Chinese companies operating in Zimbabwe invested more than US$500 000 for the programme meant to boost efforts to control the spread of Covid-19.
China Africa, Economic and Culture Exchange Research Centre chairman Mr Zivanai Steve Zhao made the revelations in a telephone interview.
He said an additional US$150 000 had also been put together for the procurement of medical equipment, which includes an oxygen machine, breathing machine, test kits and protective suits, masks and other protective clothes for health workers.
“We are expecting some of the equipment to arrive in the country this week. We want Wilkins Infectious Disease Hospital to match international standards in combating the pandemic. The teams on the construction site are now working 24 hours to speed up the upgrading the of hospital,” said Mr Zhao.
In addition, he said the Chinese Embassy was also mobilising resources to combat the spread of coronavirus in Zimbabwe.
More Chinese doctors are also set to come to Zimbabwe to assist in containing the pandemic.
“As of now we have nine doctors from Wuhan in China. Those who are in the country are training local doctors to fight the pandemic. If the need arises more doctors from China will be coming to Zimbabwe to contain the spread of the pandemic, which is a global phenomenon.”
He urged Zimbabweans to follow the directives pronounced by President Mnangagwa by avoiding unnecessary gatherings to curtail the spread of the disease.
“That is how China managed to contain the spread of coronavirus. Now China is free from the pandemic. If Zimbabweans follow instructions, they will manage to contain the spread of the pandemic,” he said.
Jin An Corporation managing director Mr David Zhou Jin said his firm had three teams working on the water system, construction, electric lines and renewing the lights.
“Our guys are working 24 hours a day to upgrade Wilkins Hospital to install proper facilities for Covid-19 and renew it and we will also donate medicines and protective clothes for doctors and other staff members. We are more than ready to fight the pandemic,” said Mr Jin.
In a related development, Ethiopia has started distributing China’s donations of medical supplies to other African states. To fight the coronavirus pandemic, tens of thousands of test kits and protective suits will be delivered across Africa in the coming weeks.
The African Union already received 2 000 test kits from the Chinese government and is expecting another 10 000 of them along with other crucial medical supplies needed to fight the spread of Covid-19 across the continent.
The distribution of the medical equipment donated is centralised by the African Union’s Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) in Ethiopia.
Jack Ma, Chinese tech billionaire and co-founder of the Alibaba online shopping platform, has since promised to donate 20 000 test kits, 100 000 masks and 1 000 protective suits to each of the 54 African states via his foundations.
“We cannot assume this continent of 1, 3 billion people will blissfully escape the crisis. The world cannot afford the unthinkable consequences of a COVID-19 pandemic in Africa,” he said in a statement.
Ma pledged a total of 1, 1 million coronavirus test kits, 6 million masks and 60 000 medical protective suits and face shields for the African continent. On Sunday, March 22, Ethiopia received 1,5 million test kits, 5,4 million face masks and tens of thousands of medical supplies.
Ethiopian Airlines will help distribute the equipment to each of its destinations.
Ma’s donations of medical supplies to fight coronavirus extended to the United States and a number of countries in Europe (Italy, France for example), Asia (Pakistan, Laos among others), Latin America (Brazil, Cuba and 22 more).
Although there are still fewer coronavirus infections in Africa than in other parts of the world, WHO figures show that the continent now has more than 1 300 cases of Covid-19 in 43 countries and 40 deaths across the continent. Italy has registered 5 476 deaths.
Egypt is the worst-hit with more than 294 cases and six deaths, followed by South Africa with 274 cases and Algeria’s 201 confirmed cases.
World Health Organisation (WHO) director- general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has warned that official figures might not likely reflect the full picture.
“The rapid evolution of Covid-19 in Africa is deeply worrisome and a clear signal for action,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO’s regional director for Africa.
Moeti said Africa could still change the course of this pandemic adding that governments must draw on all of their resources and capabilities and strengthen their response.
More worrying is that 12 African countries have recorded local transmissions. WHO urged governments to prevent local transmissions from evolving into a worst-case scenario of widespread sustained community transmission.
Such a scenario will present a major challenge to countries with weak health systems, as they do not have sufficient resources to cope with a large influx of patients needing isolation and intensive care.
“Across the region, nearly 26 million people are living with HIV. Over 58 million children have stunted growth due to malnutrition, so it is possible that younger people will be more at risk in Africa than in other parts of the world,” WHO’s Moeti added.