South Africa yesterday confirmed its maiden case, and Africa’s fourth, of coronavirus (Covid-19) and Zimbabwe expects that the former will — as it has already announced — be able to contain any spread of the new virus while precautions at the border will be intensified.
Health and Child Care Minister Dr Obadiah Moyo yesterday said following the confirmation of South Africa’s first case, Zimbabwe would also intensify efforts but hoped South African authorities would be able to track down all those who had been in contact with the infected person.
The South African patient is a 38-year-old man who had travelled to Italy with his wife. Sub-Saharan Africa’s other confirmed case, an Italian living in Nigeria, was also infected in Italy.
The other two African cases were confirmed in Algeria and Egypt. The South African couple, which has two children, was with a group of 10 people in Italy.
South Africa’s Health Ministry yesterday said the patient consulted a private general practitioner on March 3 with symptoms of fever, headache, malaise, a sore throat and a cough.
A nurse took swabs and delivered the samples to the laboratory.
The patient had been staying at home in self-quarantine since Tuesday and already South Africa’s Emergency Operating Centre has identified the man’s potential contacts by interviewing the patient and doctor, who is now also living in isolation.
The confirmed first coronavirus case in South Africa has raised awareness in Zimbabwe of the need to follow precautions laid down by medical authorities and, as the minister announced, ensure people take border checks seriously.
Commenting on the confirmed case in South Africa, Dr Moyo said Zimbabwe needed to be better prepared than ever before.
He said previous false alarms had been good drills in preparation for coronavirus and had helped check and improve the efficiency of systems put in place.
“Yes, it is frightening that it is now around the corner, but we also hope that South Africa will be thorough and be able to pick up all contacts the case had been in touch with,” said Dr Moyo.
He said as part of efforts to strengthen Zimbabwe and the global fight against Covid-19, Government would continue adhering to and upholding World Health Organisation (WHO) regulations, guidelines and advisories on travel requirements.
“As such, all travellers and visitors into the country, including those from countries with confirmed Covid-19 cases, will be screened at ports of entry into Zimbabwe.
“However, travellers with signs and symptoms suggestive of Covid-19 (fever, cough, shortness of breath, etc) will be referred immediately to designated isolation centres for further clinical examination and assistance,” said Dr Moyo in a statement last night.
Government added that no additional requirements on travellers, visitors and airlines outside those already provided for under WHO regulations, guidelines and advisories were needed.
Asked on Zimbabwe’s preparation for coronavirus, World Health Organisation country representative Dr Alex Gasasira said Harare was making progress towards preparing to respond to the disease.
He said the country has one isolation centre, which is Wilkins Hospital in Harare and needs to establish more isolation centres throughout the country.
“Zimbabwe is preparing. In some areas progress has been made but as the Minister has said, there are some areas that still need to be strengthened,” said Dr Gasasira.