THERE is growing concern over the increasing Covid-19 cases in Victoria Falls since the beginning of the festive season, amid a lack of isolation centres to monitor patients with severe symptoms.
The city, which falls under Hwange district in Matabeleland North province, has two isolation centres which have only 19 beds to service a population exceeding 150 000 people.
The isolation centres are full.
Provincial medical director Munekayi Padingani acknowledged that the tourist town is strained and said an intervention is needed.
“Beat Aids Project Zimbabwe (BAPZ), a private clinic, has eight beds, Mkhosana Clinic (run by Victoria Falls City) has 11 beds while Five Miles in Hwange has 10, so the whole district has less than 50 beds, and that means that the challenge is on,” Munekayi noted.
As of Tuesday, Hwange’s district medical officer Seleman Saidi said the district had 121 active cases.
“Victoria Falls has above 90 active cases where some of our patients are at our isolation centres which are now full, some discharged and recovering from their homes, but currently what we are doing is to try and consolidate results with private labs,” Saidi said.
“We still have one that hasn’t given us all the statistics so we are waiting for them so that we can incorporate them into our current figures but, as for now, the community has above that number.”
Munekayi said the district was also grappling with a shortage of vehicles and fuel to attend to emergencies. The increase in cases in the district was caused by frequent human interaction.
“The cases are higher in the district because, looking at Hwange being the mining area and Victoria Falls being a tourist destination, the cases will always be higher compared to other districts,”Munekayi said.
“Victoria Falls has had more active cases because during the (Christmas and New Year) holidays, many people visited the town and that’s how infections were easily transmitted. Also, looking at it being a border town where people are coming in and out, so when they do the testing some come out positive and we record them under the district.
“We are also having local cases as well and the challenge now is contact tracing as we don’t have enough cars and fuel so this is why we have to start testing people by the roadblocks as we have been instructed by the government so we need to put more staff. For now we are waiting for rapid test kits and by next week we would’ve started.”
Tourism industry players, churches and other community stakeholders have been helping to fight the pandemic through rehabilitating the intensive care units, providing personal protective equipment and providing beds for isolation centres, among other initiatives.
Matabeleland North province had a total of 1 006 confirmed cases as of Monday and nine deaths. The district’s precarious situation was brought to the attention of Zanu PF’s district organ in a meeting convened with Saidi.
Zanu PF district coordinating committee chair Matthew Muleya told The NewsHawks that the health personnel disclosed that the Covid-19 isolation centres were not in good condition while there was also a lack of vehicles to attend to emergencies as there was only one ambulance to service both rural and urban Victoria Falls communities.
Another concern was that some people visit private hospitals and are not documented, making contact tracing difficult.
Saidi reported that mental stress was high among medical staff, adding there was also a shortage of manpower.
Zanu PF pledged to donate one of its vehicles that will attend to Covid-19 emergencies in the resort city and surrounding areas such as Kazungula border, Jambezi rural and the resettlement areas.