Reduce trips between China, Zimbabwe: Envoy

Online/Phyllis Mbanje/Lorraine Muromo

THE Chinese embassy in Harare has said the Asian country is making an all-out effort to prevent the coronavirus from spreading to Zimbabwe.

In a statement, the embassy said it had informed Zimbabwean authorities in health, foreign affairs, airports, and other ports of entry of the latest developments of the epidemic and established an information-sharing mechanism with them.

“We have requested Chinese nationals coming to Zimbabwe to co-operate with the screening measures of the Zimbabwean authorities at the ports of entry and issued three consular notices to provide information updates and recommendations for epidemic prevention,” the embassy said.

“We have called on the associations of the Chinese community and Chinese businesses and institutions in Zimbabwe to raise the awareness of their members and employees who have returned to China for holiday, asking them to protect themselves against infection.”

The embassy said those who had returned to the most affected regions in China, such as Hubei, were advised to hold off coming back to Zimbabwe until the situation eases to reduce the risk of spreading the virus.

“Those who have returned to Zimbabwe from the worst-hit areas in China are requested to undergo a self-quarantine of two weeks at home, not to go to public places, offices, or any gatherings. If suspected symptoms appear, they are asked to immediately seek medical help and report to the embassy,” the statement said.

“Should there be confirmed cases in Zimbabwe, China stands ready to work closely with the Zimbabwean government and provide all possible support to jointly treat the patients and contain and mitigate the situation. The Chinese medical team in Zimbabwe has put together a special taskforce for this purpose.”

Meanwhile, Health stakeholders are furious over Finance minister Mthuli Ncube’s statements during the World Economic Summit, Davos, where he claimed that Zimbabwe’s health system was “strong” and should there be an outbreak of the coronavirus, the country would be able to handle it.

Speaking on the sidelines of the Davos meeting last week, Ncube told an international news organisation that Zimbabwe’s health system was in a sound state, which is contrary to the situation on the ground

“In terms of the health issues, our health systems are strong. We continue to invest more in the health sector. We believe that this (coronavirus) is something that we can tackle,” he said.

Mthuli also said the country was not particularly more vulnerable than others because this was a global phenomenon.

“Everyone is involved, and everyone is watching this,” he said.

However, his sentiments have torched a storm with local health stakeholders.

Multi-award winning HIV and Aids activist Martha Tholanah rubbished the minister’s assertions.

“In terms of ordinary people’s lived realities, this is not true. Where is the investment when facilities struggle to get the basics such as water supply and electricity, when facilities cannot provide basic painkillers and other sundries?” she queried.

Tholanah said workers in the public hospitals were frustrated due to lack of adequate remuneration.

“It is not necessary for the minister to say ‘government continues to invest more’. When there is more investment, this will be visible to citizens through the quality of services they receive,” she said.

Community Working Group on Health director Itai Rusike said the ministers were misleading.

“Mthuli should stop commenting on health issues and just focus on the constipated economic fundamentals and let health professionals deal with the broken health delivery system,” he
said.

Speaking on the coronavirus threat, Rusike said they acknowledged the dedication of the health workers to contain the spread of the virus, which has killed over 100 people across the world.

“The government of Zimbabwe should take measures to sensitise health workers and ensure thorough screening of returnees from the affected countries,” he said.

Rusike said there were some gaps in Zimbabwe’s preparedness including lack of technical capacity among health staff in health facilities and at points of entry.

Meanwhile, the Africa Centre for Diseases Control (CDC) has declared that there is no sign of the coronavirus on the continent.

During a media briefing in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, which was streamed live, CDC director John Nkengasong said over 4 400 people had been affected worldwide, with 4 000 from China alone.

He said there had been no confirmed cases of the virus on the African continent, but emphasised that this was not the time for complacency as the virus was spreading at an alarming rate
“There have been no confirmed cases in Africa. The virus has already hit the United States, Hong Kong, South Korea, Thailand ,France, Germany just to mention a few. The virus has killed at least 107 people,” Nkengasong said.

He said Africa had employed the use of an incident management system to update African countries as soon as the information was available.

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