60 days in and this is what we know about Zimbabwe's Covid-19 fight

A health worker washes her hands during a demonstration of preparations for coronavirus cases at a hospital in Harare on March 11. Over two months later, the country is running dangerously low on resources to fight the pandemic.
A health worker washes her hands during a demonstration of preparations for coronavirus cases at a hospital in Harare on March 11. Over two months later, the country is running dangerously low on resources to fight the pandemic.
Image: REUTERS/ PHILIMON BULAWAYO

Zimbabwe’s Covid-19 fight has so far been a mixture of hope, fear, poverty and mistrust in the government.

While figures in the past two months have been relatively low, they are starting to shoot up.

This is what we know about the Covid-19 situation in Zimbabwe:

Thursday marked the 60th day of the lockdown and it’s set to go on for many more days, if not months, after President Emmerson Mnangagwa said the current level 2 was indefinite.

On Wednesday, 76 positive cases were announced after a four-day silence as the government cross-checked the unprecedented figure, bringing the national tally to 132 positive cases from 38,356 tests. There have been four deaths and 25 recoveries, with 104 active cases.

Most positive cases have been traced back to people returning from South Africa and Botswana. Of the latest 76 cases, 72 were linked to South Africa and one from Botswana, while three were local infections.

Due in part to overcrowding at quarantine centres for people returning from abroad, at least 113 have escaped - raising fears of a possibility of community infections. As such, the government has declared that harbouring a returning citizen who didn’t go through the centres is now a criminal offence.

To date 693 dead bodies have been ferried from South Africa to Zimbabwe since the start of the lockdown on March 20. None of them tested positive for Covid-19.

Two thousand Zimbabweans have been voluntarily sent back home from South Africa and about 500 have been deported, with convicted criminals given five-year travel bans from South Africa. Three thousand more people are expected next week from South Africa and Botswana but the government says it has no capacity to quarantine them and is urging churches to avail their facilities.

The government has a shortage of test kits because there’s an international demand. Universities and the manufacturing industry are only producing masks and sanitisers.

A company linked to Mnangagwa’s son Sean, Drax International, was clandestinely given a tender to supply Covid-19 equipment worth $987,720 (R17.2m). The items to be procured included: 5,040 N95 masks at a cost of $28 (R487) per unit; 15,000 Covid-19 test kits at $34 (R591) each; and 3,740 coveralls for $90 (R1,566) each. Prices are a 50% mark-up from manufacturers;

Zimbabwe has missed out on international Covid-19 bailout packages because of its reputation for corruption. Finance minister Mthuli Ncube, in a letter to international finance institutions in April, said the government was working on fixing its reputation.

Seven million people - almost half the country’s population - is in need of food aid. Annual inflation stands at 934%, further pushing many into food insecurity. As a result, the government is set to put in place price controls for basic food items, while removing import duty on mealie meal and floor.

Political gatherings under the lockdown rules are outlawed. The MDC Alliance, which vowed to stage flash demonstrations, has fallen foul of this law.


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