Govt way behind in terms of COVID-19 preparedness

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THE latest edition of our sister newspaper, The Standard carries a story that exposes again the lack of preparedness by the government in dealing with the coronavirus. The story of Saul Sakudya, who tested positive to COVID-19 after travelling to Dubai last month, is again a call to the authorities to up their game when it comes to fighting the spread of the virus.

NewsDay Comment

Here are some disturbing issues we picked from that story.

Coronavirus has been in the news since December last year, and in particular, after it became a full-blown crisis for China and started spreading to the rest of the world in January. The symptoms are among the most repeated of stories of the modern times while air travel has been shown to be the most common setting for many to catch the virus. Yet when Sakudya described the symptoms to his doctor, he was given antibiotics. Either the doctor simply ignored the obvious or he has not kept up to date with developments.

Sakudya’s recent travel history should have been enough to raise alarm, which the doctor again ignored.

When he eventually made it for testing at Wilkins Hospital, results, which should have been available in five hours, were only released after 72 hours. Authorities had told him that the results would only delay if he was negative, so he spent 67 hours exposing his family and possibly staff to the virus, not through his own making, but sheer ineptitude by the State.

“What if I had interacted with many people thinking that I was negative?” a worried Sakudya asked incredulously. Indeed.

His tale gets even more weird: “I was asked to go to Wilkins for isolation. My son was still driving me. We went to Wilkins and were told the hospital was closing down for renovations. We were referred to the Beatrice Road Infectious Diseases Hospital. At Beatrice, we were told to go back to Wilkins. They said they were not ready to handle a coronavirus case.

“We went back to Wilkins, but they refused to take us in, this time referring us to Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals,” said Sakudya.
Eventually he was taken to Beatrice Hospital the following day.

“There was chaos at the hospital with panicky nurses fleeing the hospital, complaining that they had no protective clothing to handle a COVID-19 patient.”

Zimbabwe watched as the fast-spreading virus hit country after country, and even the fact that its ‘all weather friend’ China was at the centre of the crisis did not move the government to act. It is a crisis that exposes a lack of investment in critical infrastructure and a lackadaisical attitude to resolving deficiencies by the country’s leadership.

The lack of personal protective equipment has been a regular refrain by the doctors and nurses, the frontline warriors in the fight against COVID-19 and up to now, government has not acted to resolve the situation.

Why has no one from government made a follow-up on Sakudya’s condition since he was self-quarantined at home?

“I was quarantined on March 24 and up to now, no one from the Ministry of Health or any government department has been here to see me, or provide food. It is now about 14 days to go for the national lockdown to be complete, I am not supposed to go out, but my government is not worried about how I am surviving.”

Dear Health minister, Obadiah Moyo, we need answers.