Deputy News Editor
Zimbabwe remains on high alert, especially at ports of entry, for the deadly new coronavirus, amid reports that over 1 400 travellers have passed through the country’s ports of entry that are screening people.
The new coronavirus, which was christened COVID-19 by the World Health Organisation (WHO) on Wednesday, claimed its first death in Tokyo, Japan, yesterday as it continues with its ruthless streak that has seen over 1 300 people dying, particularly in mainland China.
Over 60 000 people across the world have been infected by the new coronavirus, with the bulk of victims in China.
Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister Monica Mutsvangwa told journalists after Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting that Zimbabwe’s response mechanism for surveillance and early detection remained on alert.
“To date, 1 433 travellers have been reported to have passed through Zimbabwe’s ports of entry that are screening travellers,” said Minister Mutsvangwa.
“The Government of Zimbabwe has agreed with the Government of the Republic of China that these travellers be subjected to self-quarantine for a 21-day surveillance period, in order to ensure early detection of symptoms.
“The national response mechanism for surveillance and early detection of any possible cases remains activated, especially at all ports of entry in the country.”
The main treatment centres will be situated at Wilkins Infectious Diseases Hospital for the northern part of the country and Thorngrove Infectious Diseases Hospital for the Southern region. The National Microbiology Reference Laboratory (NMRL) was assessed and found to have good testing capacity and is adequately equipped.
Health and Child Care Minister Dr Obadiah Moyo recently toured Wilkins Hospital and Sally Mugabe Central Hospital (formerly Harare Central Hospital) laboratory, which will be used for testing the virus, to assess their preparedness.
Wilkins Hospital will be for the isolation of suspected and confirmed cases.
Minister Mutsvangwa said medicines for treatment have been identified locally and will be strategically positioned at the treatment centres.
She said the Ministry of Health and Child Care was working on modalities to ensure that adequate personnel for identification and management of cases, particularly at ports of entry, is trained and equipped for the arduous task ahead of them.
“Government wants to assure the nation that it is ready to tackle the coronavirus scourge head-on, and there is no need for Zimbabweans to panic, as the situation is under control.
“The Ministry of Health and Child Care will continue to give updates on developments regarding the virus.”
On Tuesday, Dr Moyo briefed Cabinet on the national progress regarding the 2019 novel coronavirus outbreak, which started on December 30, 2019 in China.
It was upgraded to a public health emergency by the WHO on January 31 this year.
From January 25, the Ministry of Health and Child Care activated a surveillance system which includes follow up of travellers to Zimbabwe who visited China and other affected countries.
The US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) yesterday confirmed the 15th case of the coronavirus in the US.
The person is under federal quarantine at an airbase in Texas.
The person becomes the first person under quarantine at the airbase among a group of people that arrived from China on February 7, who had symptoms and tested positive for the disease.