MASVINGO marked a record single-day increase in the number of Covid-19 cases on Tuesday as it emerged that the province is operating with only a single isolation centre for the public.
Health officials confirmed 98 new cases of the novel coronavirus out of 123 tests done on Tuesday. They also confirmed that four people died during the same day. The cumulative cases in the province stood at 872 most of which are health officials. The national death toll is 446 as of yesterday.
The province is a gateway to South Africa, a hotspot for the virus. Masvingo is operating with Rujeko Clinic as the only working isolation centre for Covid-19 patients, forcing health officials to release most patients home for self-isolation.
The province does not have capacity to deal with cases since it lacks ventilators as well as qualified personnel to operate the machines, putting patients at risk of dying.
Masvingo provincial Covid-19 taskforce spokesperson Rodgers Irimayi told The NewsHawks that cases in the province are rising at an alarming rate with 98 recorded on Tuesday being the highest since March last year.
He said despite the announcement of an intensified lockdown which started on Tuesday, 122 people were arrested for violating the lockdown on the day, bringing the number of people arrested since last year to 26 301 in the province.
“Number of positives cases in the province are rising at alarming levels with 98 new cases recorded on Tuesday bringing the total to 872 since March last year. Of that number 633 recovered, 18 died and we are left with 221 active cases,” he said.
“We are encouraging people to abide by the government regulations during the lockdown period. It is regrettable that people are engaging in illegal selling of different goods and on 5 January 2021, 212 were arrested for various offenses. The cumulative number of arrested people is now 26 301. On Tuesday, 52 vehicles were impounded, bringing the figure to 10 929 of impounded vehicles since the beginning of the lockdown in March last year.”
Investigations by The NewsHawks revealed that at least 43 health workers tested positive for Covid-19 within the last seven days. These include 15 cases at Silveira Mission Hospital, Gutu Rural Hospital (13), Gutu Mission (8), Nyika Clinic (3), Chiredzi Hospital (2), Musiso (1) and Ndanga (1).
The positive cases recorded by health officials is largely attributed to lack of personal protective equipment. Two nurses at Chiredzi Hospital are currently admitted to the intensive care unit where a doctor is attending to them with the rest of nurses unable due to fear of contracting the virus.
Chiredzi district development coordinator Lovemore Chisema, who is also the chairperson of the district`s Covid-19 taskforce, told The NewsHawks that his district is one of the province`s hot spots due to its geographical location. He said the district is prone to unchecked border jumpers from South Africa. He also attributed the spike to complacency and continuous disregard of World Health Organisation protocol.
“With 233 cumulative cases, 156 recoveries, 4 deaths and 73 active cases, Chiredzi is one of the hot spots in the province. We attribute this to complacency, as citizens we are not risk averse. We cannot rule out the impact of returnees during the festive season especially from South Africa with our district being highly prone to unchecked border jumpers. There is also continuous and constant disregard of WHO procedures, we are just casual as individuals,” said Chisema.
The lockdown announced by Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga, who is also the minister of Health, on Saturday caught many people unprepared with vendors at Chitima Fruit and Vegetable Market saying their wares will rot since they were not given an opportunity to clear them.
“We had fresh farm produce in our market but the lockdown came as a surprise to us. We thought since we are dealing with agricultural produce they would allow us to continue like what is happening in other towns. This will leave most of us unable to continue with the business due to heavy financial loses,” said Tamisai Katini Chairperson of Chitima Fruit and Vegetable Market.
There is heavy police presence in town, while roadblocks have been established along all roads leading to the central business district. The heavy police presence spreads to other districts within the province with only a few shops operating.