Govt investigates influenza outbreak in schools

Mukudzei Chingwere Herald Reporter

The Ministry of Health and Child Care is trying to find the precise nature of the outbreaks of colds and flu that have hit some schools after confirming that these were not Covid-19 nor a new strain.

The upgrade of health facilities and equipment since the outbreak of Covid-19 gave the capacity to do Covid-19 genomic sequencing to detect the variants circulating in communities and in this case to eliminate the disease as the source of the colds seen in some schools 

Speaking to The Herald yesterday, an expert in the Ministry of Health and Child Care who is part of the advisory team that advises Government on Covid-19, Dr Raiva Simbi, confirmed the ongoing lab tests on the colds in the country.

“We are doing tests on the influenza that have been reported in the country so that we know how best we can respond to it. You would recall the colds that were reported at Nashville High in Gweru, the tests were done and it showed that it was not Covid-19. Now we want to know the nature of those colds,” said Dr Simbi.

“Covid-19 cases are going down which is a positive sign, but like I said before we want to know the nature of these influenza.

“People should not panic, the virus is being controlled, but we continue to urge people to observe all the Covid-19 preventative measures so that we do not risk another spike in infections. 

“At schools we need to be on alert as well so that learners continue adhering to protocols.

“Those who have not yet been vaccinated are urge d to get the jabs. The vaccines are a proven scientific record at controlling this virus.” 

This week, Cabinet said it will enforce adherence of the public health measures to minimise Covid-19 infections after the Government found cases of a flagrant disregard of regulations, especially in private schools.

Speaking after the Cabinet meeting, Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister Monica Mutsvangwa said though infections among learners in schools were decreasing unsanctioned movement was being brought to halt.

She advised the nation that the number of new Covid-19 infections among learners in schools was decreasing, a sign the laid down protocols were working, but noted that the disregard of measures was worrisome.

“Movement of boarders during term time as well as general non-compliance with the standard operating procedures for the prevention and management of Covid-19 and other influenza-like illnesses in the primary and secondary education sector has contributed to outbreaks in schools,” said Minister Mutsvangwa.

“It has been observed that some private schools are not fully observing of the provisions of the Education Act as evidenced by the continued practice of allowing parents to withdraw boarders from school for exeat weekend or for half term school breaks during the pandemic, and that enforcement of the Public Health Act on such unsanctioned movement of learners during the pandemic will be evoked and strengthened.”

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