BY VANESSA GONYE
Health and Child Care minister Obadiah Moyo has said Zimbabwean students stranded in China after the coronavirus outbreak should stay in the Asian country because their return might be “dangerous”, inadvertently confirming the government’s lack of preparedness to handle the fast-spreading deadly virus.
Speaking at an inter-ministerial meeting held in Harare to map the way forward on containing the virus, Moyo said the fight to stop the coronavirus entering into Zimbabwe was giving government sleepless nights.
“We have our students in China and this meeting has agreed and feels they are better off in China at this stage,” he said.
“We have had conversations with the students and they have indicated they prefer to be in China at this moment because if they were to fall sick, there is already some treatment which has been applied which is successful. They are better off rather than coming here. We haven’t even tried any treatment at all, so they are better off in China at this very stage.”
Government, however, is reluctant to institute travel bans to people coming from China and areas affected by the virus.
“We realise that the incidence of the disease is increasing everywhere around the world. We called this meeting particularly realising it’s no longer confined to China. We also needed to highlight the fact that our airlines, Kenyan Airways and Emirates, are not flying from China, but it is the Ethiopian Airlines which is flying into Zimbabwe from China,” Moyo said.
He said as government, they were working on containing the virus at all costs.
“We do not want it to come, but sometimes when you see the trend, you just can’t go to sleep, you wake up and be prepared. If it was to arrive in your home, how will you deal with it? That is what we are doing,” Moyo said.
To date, only two suspected cases of the virus have been recorded in the country, with Moyo expressing confidence on their current testing mechanism.
He said a new testing regime was on the cards to do away with delayed release of results.
Parents of students in China yesterday met Chinese embassy officials to get an appreciation of the state of affairs regarding their children’s safety in the wake of the deadly virus. About 2 000 Zimbabwean students are studying in China.
Speaking to the parents, Chinese deputy ambassador to Zimbabwe, Zhao Baogang said his country was prepared to assist those who wanted to evacuate their children should they choose to do so.
He, however, said it was not advisable to evacuate foreign nationals from China, saying it may further complicate the situation.
India, Germany and Iran have reported new cases of the coronavirus, while the World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned that the world was in “uncharted territory”.
WHO said more than 90 000 cases had been confirmed globally, with deaths reaching 3 110 yesterday.
Meanwhile, local financial institution, Ecobank has responded to the current efforts to curb and control the transmission of coronavirus by donating test kits to the Health ministry.
The donation of US$30 000 will go towards the procurement of rapid testing kits that will be deployed at all ports of entry including airports and border posts to strengthen efforts to break the virus’ transmission chain after the disease was discovered in China and now has been spreading to other parts of the world.
In handing over the donation, Ecobank managing director Moses Kurenjekwa said the financial institution was alive to the potential business and human threat posed by the virus globally.
“We are taking these steps at a local level as a show of our commitment to this country,” he said.
“It is our hope that we can come together as a nation and deal collectively with this serious threat to social and economic progress.”
Cabinet yesterday resolved that all visitors from countries that had reported coronavirus should hold valid medical clearance certificates issued by a government health institution.
Speaking during yesterday’s Cabinet briefing, Moyo said visitors without the certificate would be immediately deported at the port of entry.
“You don’t have a certificate, we have no choice, but send you back to where you are coming from,” he said.
Information minister Monica Mutsvangwa urged all government emergency agencies, including the Department of Civil Protection, to be prepared in the event of the virus spreading to Zimbabwe.