Nineteen returnees from South Africa and Botswana have escaped from a quarantine centre at Mkoba Teachers College in Gweru, triggering fears they could spread COVID-19 in the country’s third largest city.
By Brenna Matendere
The returnees escaped on Wednesday, a day the country recorded 76 new cases to bring the total number of confirmed cases to 132, with the majority from the quarantine centres across the country.
Information ministry secretary Ndavaningi Mangwana confirmed the incident, saying security personnel manning Mkoba Teachers College quarantine centre may have been bribed by the inmates to make their way out.
“Eighteen returnees are missing at Mkoba Teachers College quarantine centre in Gweru. There are 15 men, three women and a small baby. There is a two-metre wall with a razor wire. Bribed gate security?” Mangwana tweeted.
The move has forced Gweru MP Brian Dube (MDC Alliance) to purge residents to be on high alert.
“I write to the people of Gweru to advise that we should exercise vigilance and alertness in light of the imminent risk and danger of COVID-19. The fears expressed in my last COVID-19 alert message a few days ago, arising from insecurity at the quarantine centres in Gweru have been confirmed,” he said.
“Nineteen people whose COVID-19 status is unknown have escaped the Mkoba Teachers College quarantine facility. As I write to you, the 19 people remain at large. They are likely to be mixing with people, exposing the majority of people to COVID-19.”
“No family member, relative or friends whom you have not been together with for the past 21 days should be accommodated without first notifying authorities to verify their status. Report any such person to the nearest police station or base,” he said.
“Report to the authorities any person that you see in your neighbourhood, whom you have not seen within the last 21 days. Exercise maximum social distancing and hygiene. Use your face masks, avoid physically embracing each other,” the MP added.
Lately, returning citizens at Gweru’s quarantine centres complained of dilapidated facilities, absence of basic needs and social amenities as well as lack of healthcare from authorities, a situation that could force more inmates to escape at first opportunity.
Last week, a returnee at Mkoba Teachers College, who is also under quarantine, told NewsDay that a fellow inmate was experiencing symptoms of high fever which made him appear to be going into a state of trance on regular occasions, but he did not get help from the facility’s medical team.