Coronavirus: Thai escapee returns to Wilkins Health and Child Care Minister Dr Obadiah Moyo

Paidamoyo Chipunza Senior Health Reporter
The Thai national, who health authorities wanted to test for possible coronavirus (Covid-19 ) infection yesterday voluntarily returned to Wilkins Infectious Diseases Hospital in Harare after an initial escape, and has given samples for the required tests, the Ministry of Health and Child Care has said.

The ministry awaits the test results and will keep the public informed.

The man had sought private treatment for a cough and fever whereupon he was referred to Wilkins on Sunday, but left before the samples could be taken.

Health authorities thought there was a very low possibility of Covid-19 as the man had arrived in the middle of last month and had not developed any symptoms within the incubation period, but they still wanted a test to confirm this.

A second visitor, a British woman, in Hwange developed flu-type symptoms and was referred to Victoria Falls Hospital.

But doctors diagnosed her symptoms as not for the Covid-19 case definition set by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

The doctors administered antibiotics for ordinary pneumonia and she has since recovered, the ministry said, in a statement, yesterday.

The ministry is following a policy of testing or monitoring in all possible suspected cases, even when there is a low probability of infection so as to be sure that it will be able to isolate any actual infection at an early stage to minimise risks.

SADC member states have agreed to put in place national preparedness and response plans, as well as contingency and emergency funds for all efforts against coronavirus, with Zimbabwe requiring at least US$5,2 million.

The member states agreed after an urgent meeting in Tanzania yesterday, to peer review each other’s preparedness, and requested international partners through WHO and the Africa Centre for Disease Control and Prevention to assist countries in preparing the plans and resource mobilisation for health-related infrastructure.

In a statement after the extraordinary meeting of SADC Ministers of Health on Covid-19, member states recommended a temporary suspension of regional face-to-face   meetings.

They encouraged the use of modern technology such as video-conferencing, webinars and Skype calls until it is known that there is no risk of infection.

The temporary suspension will be monitored by the chairperson of the Council and is supported by the SADC Secretariat, which took a similar stance earlier.

On issues of transboundary public health, the meeting agreed to re-establish and expand the terms of reference

for the technical committee for coordinating and monitoring the implementation of the SADC Protocol on Health.

The committee will comprise directors of public health and directors of medical services.

It was directed to immediately work in partnership with disaster management and other relevant structures in government such as immigration, tourism, finance, foreign affairs and trade, the Africa Centre for Disease Control, development partners, private sector and civil society.

The Health ministers urged member States to use the SADC pooled procurement services through medical stores department, for the procurement of medicines and supplies.

Member States were also urged to mobilise domestic resources and invest in public health systems to ensure resilience and health security.

Speaking after the meeting, Health and Child Care Minister Dr Obadiah Moyo said ministers felt the need to coordinate services to ensure the region was fully prepared.

“The ministers who attended the meeting all felt that we have to harmonise our response and services right through the region and one of the issues in the harmonisation process is to ensure that we are all fully prepared; fully prepared in terms of availability of medicines, safety, making sure that the training of our personnel is adequate and strengthening of the surveillance and monitoring systems right through our countries,” said Dr Moyo.

Health and Child Care Permanent Secretary Dr Agnes Mahomva said Zimbabwe needed at least US$5,2 million for Covid-19 response.

She said the plan had since been shared with all partners.

Recently, the Global Fund to Fight HIV, Tuberculosis and Malaria indicated interest in supporting Zimbabwe’s fight against Covid-19.

“We are happy that the Global Fund has also come in and said they want to give us resources for Covid-19 and we have since submitted our generic national response plan,” said Dr Mahomva.

To date, over 4 000 people globally have died of coronavirus, while about 113 000 others have been infected although a majority have now recovered and are now out of hospital as global daily infection rates continue to fall although mroe countries record confirmed cases.

Countries hardest hit by coronavirus are China, where the first case was detected, South Korea, Italy and Iran.

Covid-19 has since been declared an international outbreak.

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