Coronavirus suspect escapes

BY Lorraine Muromo/ Garikai Mafirakureva

A PERSON suspected to be infected with coronavirus reportedly escaped on Sunday from Wilkins Hospital in Harare before further tests could be conducted, Health minister Obadiah Moyo has confirmed.

The 26-year-old person, who is of Thai origin and had travelled from his home country, is the fourth person suspected of being infected with the novel virus, which has, in the past two months, grown into a global epidemic.

The city health director Prosper Chonzi also confirmed the case, saying the man had earlier presented himself at the privately-owned Trauma Centre complaining of a sore throat and a cough.

He was then referred to Wilkins since Thailand is one
of the countries with confirmed cases of Covid-19.

“However, the man, who had been accompanied by his father and two other Zimbabweans, checked himself out while authorities were readying to collect some specimens,” Chonzi said.

“The attending staff was gearing up with protective clothing when the man walked out and, along with his people, sped off.”

Chonzi said the police had been notified and they were following up on the contact details that the man gave immigration officials when he came into the country.

“However, we are not particularly worried about this case because he came into the country on February 14 aboard Emirates, who are very thorough on these issues. He also passed through Dubai, which has stringent measures, so we are not too worried,” he said.

Chonzi, however, said the man had passed the 14-day incubation period and was highly unlikely to pose any serious danger.

“The tests that we wanted to conduct were for our own satisfaction since the 14-day incubation had passed without him exhibiting any signs of sickness,” he said.

Government has been accused of hiding vital information on suspected coronavirus cases, with human rights lawyers and doctors threatening to take legal action to force government to release information timeously.

In yet another case, officials from Chiredzi have also announced that three people who recently returned from China a week ago were in self-isolation.

The three were said to be staying in Chiredzi’s Tshovani high-density suburb while in self-quarantine.

The announcement was made by Chiredzi town secretary Charles Muchatukwa in a speech read on his behalf during a council service meeting last week.

However, Chiredzi General Hospital superintendent David Tarumbwa dismissed the report as reckless and said the issue could cause unnecessary public panic.

“I don’t know where this is coming from because a health official was supposed to be there when this announcement was made,” he said.

Information permanent secretary Ndavaningi Mangwana denied receiving information from Chiredzi concerning the three cases.

The Health ministry on Sunday released a statement stating that all identified suspected cases had been appropriately followed up, tested and found to be negative of Covid-19.

“All tests were conducted by well-trained local laboratory teams. Additional samples from all suspects’ cases are being sent for confirmation testing by the Regional Reference Laboratory. To date, all samples have tested negative for Covid-19,” the statement read.

African Health ministers are at an emergency meeting in Ethiopia to map out a co-ordinated action plan to prepare and respond to Covid-19 infections in Africa.

South Africa has recorded four more cases of coronavirus, bringing the total to seven.

Health minister Zweli Mkhize announced yesterday that four more people who were part of a group of 10 travellers who recently returned to South Africa from Italy — the same group with which South Africa’s first three patients were part of — had tested positive.

Nigeria also recorded its second case of Covid-19.

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