Govt budgets US$5m for coronavirus

BY VANESSA GONYE

Over US$5,2 million has been earmarked for screening and monitoring suspected cases of the Novel (2019) coronavirus that has been declared a global public health emergency.

Speaking at an inter-ministerial meeting on the outbreak, disaster, emergency preparedness and response, focal person Isaac Phiri said government had budgeted the money to ensure that the virus is contained.

“The total of needs amounts to US$5 222 432 for screening and maintaining suspected coronavirus cases, with US$147 000 set aside for infection, prevention control through training of personnel,” he said.

“But in the event that a case is detected, the amount is expected to rise to match the needs presented by the situation.”

Phiri said they had been getting assistance from corporates to manage the situation in the country, with authorities determined to stop the virus from finding its way into the country.
He said surveillance and screening commenced on January 22 after Mimosa Mining chipped in with 10 thermo-detectors and thermo-scanners.

“We have been receiving daily assistance from the World Health Organisation (WHO). To date, 643 passengers from affected areas have been screened and are being followed up, with 109 of these being in Harare,” Phiri said.

Harare City Council health services director Prosper Chonzi said the local authority had set aside two infectious diseases hospitals to deal with suspected cases.

He said Wilkins Hospital had been identified as the isolation centre and Granville Cemetery, popularly known as KuMbudzi, as the burial site in case the virus finds its way into the country and deaths are recorded.

“Beatrice Road Infectious Disease Hospital and Wilkins Hospital will handle suspected cases of the coronavirus, with seven beds set aside at Wilkins Hospital, but can be increased to 35 to admit patients anytime from now,” Chonzi said.

“We have designated the burial site as well. Everything is properly thought out. In case of detection of the disease and the person subsequently dying, they will be buried there (Granville) under good environmental practices.”

Community Working Group on Health executive director Itai Rusike urged government to increase its funding on health and focus the spending on preventing the disease before it becomes a disaster affecting the country directly.

“It is undeniable that the current broken health delivery system makes Zimbabwe very vulnerable should the virus spread into this country. It is not simply the health systems itself which is at stake from the threat of a global coronavirus outbreak, but the health of the whole nations, today and for the future,” he said.

As of yesterday, the killer virus had claimed 500 lives in China since its outbreak three weeks ago.

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