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Byo sees sharp decline in Covid-19 cases



BULAWAYO has been registering a sharp decline in Covid-19 admissions in recent weeks compared to early January when treatment centres were reporting double-digit patient admissions.

The city has five Covid-19 treatment centres: Thorngrove Infectious Diseases Hospital, the Old Bartley Memorial Block housed at the United Bulawayo Hospitals (UBH), Elangeni Training Centre, the Catholic-run Mater Dei Hospital and Ekusileni Medical Centre.

Ekusileni, the brainchild of the late Father Zimbabwe Joshua Nkomo, remains closed after missing its November 30 re-opening deadline. The re-opening of the National Social Security Authority-owned facility has suffered several false starts since its closure in 2004 shortly after opening its doors.

Bulawayo Covid-19 facilities, which suffer varying challenges from lack of ventilators to incomplete refurbishment and renovation, have been recording a decline in admissions with less than 10 patients each as of Tuesday this week, it was established.

“We have reduced numbers; there are fewer patients. There are about six admitted at Mater Dei,” the chairperson of the Mater Dei Hospital board, Douglas Bramsen, said.

Bulawayo City Council health (BCC) health director Edwin Sibanda added: “What I can say is that the numbers have been going down; they are very low. At Thorngrove, as of yesterday (Tuesday), eight people were admitted there but they are all stable with mild symptoms.

“The same goes for Elangeni where there were eight people admitted there, but all stable and with mild symptoms.

“The numbers have been going down but with Easter-associated travels, people coming in from outside the country carrying the virus, we might have another wave and a possible increase in admissions.”  
In December, land borders were re-opened for the festive season, leading to a spike in Covid-19 cases and fatalities. 

In response, Health and Child Care minister Constantino Chiwenga in January announced a 30-day lockdown to arrest the spike in cases and deaths.

In March, President Emmerson Mnangagwa relaxed the lockdown measures, allowing for the re-opening of schools and some economic sectors.

On Tuesday this week, he announced measures to coincide with the Easter holiday. A slide in Covid-19 admissions in Bulawayo comes at a time the country has rolled out the second phase of the vaccination exercise targeting teachers, elderly, patients with chronic conditions and others.

As of Monday, more than  69 000 people had received Covid-19 jabs across the country with over 1 000 vaccinated in Bulawayo on the same day, according to Bulawayo provincial medical director Welcome Mlilo.

Mater Dei Hospital, the only fully equipped Covid-19 treatment centre, has 12 beds but its fees, at US$3 000 on admission, are beyond the reach of many.

The UBH’s Old Bartley Memorial Block, with capacity to admit 50 patients referred from hospitals in Matabeleland region, opened its doors to the public in December. About US$9 million is needed for its completion to ramp up capacity to 112 patients.

Thorngrove Infectious Diseases  Hospital is a 20-bed council-run facility. It received a donation of 15 more beds in January sourced by faith-based organisations.

Elangeni Training Centre, designated for asymptomatic patients needing isolation and closed for the better part of 2020 for renovations, was only opened in October in response to the rising number of Covid-19 cases in Bulawayo.

With regards to Ekusileni Medical Centre, the government has said it will have 50-bed capacity when it opens.

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