'MASK UP, STAY AT HOME'
The government says it is doing the best it can with limited resources in an economy that has been in recession since 2019.
Agnes Mahomva, the national COVID-19 taskforce coordinator, told Reuters that Zimbabwe was equipped to handle the second wave and that the government was emphasising prevention after tightening lockdown rules earlier this month.
"We expected this surge because people had relaxed. Our hospitals are adequately prepared to handle patients but we continue to say 'mask up and stay at home'. It is the best way to beat COVID-19," Mahomva said.
The country of 15 million people has 84 working ventilators in public hospitals, and 1,049 beds designated for COVID-19 patients in private and public institutions, according to ministry of health data.
At the state-owned Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals, the country's biggest COVID-19 centre with 97 beds, there are two intensive care unit beds and the hospital is nearly full, said Rashida Ferrand, an epidemiologist and physician at the hospital.
Private hospitals, which are better equipped, have less than 15% of the national bed capacity and charge at least $2,000 to admit COVID-19 patients.
Some desperate Zimbabweans have turned to social media in search of hospital beds and ventilators for ailing relatives.
The two cabinet ministers and retired army general, who all died from COVID-19, were buried on Wednesday after being declared national heroes for their role in the 1970s liberation war.
Chiwenga told a crowd of some 300 people at their joint funeral that the virus was ruthless.
"COVID-19 has taught us an important lesson, that we are all mortals. It does not discriminate between the powerful and the weak, the privileged and the deprived, the haves and the have-nots," said Chiwenga, who wore a mask and face shield.
He is also Zimbabwe's health minister, and has made several trips to China in the last 18 months for an unspecified illness.
"It is a ruthless juggernaut that leaves a trail of despair and desperation," Chiwenga said, adding that vaccine rollout plans would be announced soon.
Health workers on the frontline fighting the coronavirus say they are demoralised with poor salaries and lack of protective equipment.
Enoch Dongo, president of the Zimbabwe Nurses Association, said most nurses worked shifts of up to 12 hours with no gloves, medical gowns or safety shoes and only a single surgical face mask.
"Psychologically, mentally and physically, nurses are traumatised as we speak right now, because they are watching patients die in their care (and) ... some of them are avoidable deaths," said Dongo.
"It's a wake-up call to everyone, to politicians, to the people of Zimbabwe to the business community, that we need to invest in our health delivery system because ... right now, with COVID-19, no one can travel outside the country."