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Official COVID-19 stats only a tip of the iceberg: Health experts

HEALTH experts have warned that the official COVID-19 statistics disclosed by government were only a tip of the iceberg amid concerns that many cases were going untested as infections and deaths in Zimbabwe continue on an upward trajectory. BY HARRIET CHIKANDIWA/REX MPHISA Zimbabwe has recorded 1 713 COVID-19 infections and 26 deaths so far, with Harare and Bulawayo the epicentres of the disease having 489 and 525 cases respectively. Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights secretary Norman Matara yesterday called on the Health ministry to intensify testing in other provinces. “We have recorded high numbers in Bulawayo and Harare, but we are not really testing in other towns or provinces. If you look at the latest update from the ministry only 39 tests were done in other provinces, so it would appear as if Harare and Bulawayo are the main hotspots, but let’s also increase the tests in other provinces because we might be misguided that Harare and Bulawayo are the only hotspot areas. Other provinces might be having infections, but they are not testing enough,” he said. Matara said the lockdown was important in minimising infections, but the most important thing was to slow down the rate of infection and flatten the curve to make sure that hospitals can cope. “Our hospitals are not working at the moment. The first point of call for the government is to make sure that hospitals are functioning. Hospitals are not ready, nurses are not working, doctors are threatening to go on strike, there is no equipment in the hospitals, we have a dysfunctional health system which is not prepared to deal with a severe case of COVID-19 so we have to make sure that our health system is functional and have PPE (personal protective equipment) for all health workers,” Matara said. Information minister Monica Mutsvangwa, in a statement after the national taskforce on COVID-19 meeting yesterday, raised concern over local transmissions that have “exponentially risen from 286 to 791 in a week”. The national taskforce emphasised that to curtail further transmissions those isolating at home — asymptomatic patients — should adhere to the set conditions and measures agreed with the health authorities. “Measures are being put in place to penalise those who flout isolation regulations,” she said. The taskforce also ordered that the Chinhoyi University of Technology which recorded an infection should undertake all necessary and sensible steps to close. The government through the Foreign Affairs ministry is facilitating the transportation of returning Zimbabwean students from across the globe, through repatriation flights, the minister added. Responding to the spike in COVID-19 cases, Information permanent secretary Ndavaningi Mangwana yesterday in a tweet said: “There are some cases of deaths which are awaiting test results on whether COVID-19 was the cause. Security is being tightened to ensure only essential services can be allowed through to CBDs. We apologise for any inconveniences.” Community Working Group on Health executive director Itai

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