There was near pandemonium at St Alberts Mission Hospital in Muzarabani when the body of a 28-year-old female cross-border trader was brought in under suspicion that she could have died from COVID-19.
BY Phyllis Mbanje
The woman had travelled to Mozambique on March 10 using an informal entry point in Chiwenga area as illegal movement between Zimbabwe and Mozambique by cross-boarder traders continues despite the lockdown.
The district medical officer based at St Alberts Mission Hospital, Kelvin Mupunga, said the woman, who is originally from Goromonzi, developed a cough while in Mozambique.
“She was also experiencing shortness of breath and developed a fever,” Mupunga said.
“Her friends decided to bring her back to Zimbabwe and again used an illegal entry point since they all did not have official documents.”
“On reaching the Zimbabwe side, the patient’s condition worsened and she passed on around Chadereka area.”
Chadereka Police Station took the body to Chadereka Clinic.
“Suspecting that this was a COVID-19 case, the clinic staff sterilised the body with some chemicals and the body was taken to Muzarabani Police Station who subsequently brought her to St Alberts Hospital around 11pm on April 28,” he said.
Mupunga said there was a near scare as they did not have any test kit to establish if the woman had died of COVID-19.
“We now had a dilemma because at that point, we had no COVID-19 rapid diagnostic test (RDT) kits. We only had one sample collecting kit and to make things worse, the body was also decomposing,” he said.
The hospital then consulted the National Reference Laboratory in Harare as well as the provincial health office.
They were advised to treat it as a COVID-19 case and ensure proper burial or disposal of the body was done.
A sample was collected, but due to the advanced state of decomposition, the National Reference Laboratory warned that the results might not be definitive.
The woman was buried just outside the hospital under the supervision of environmental health technicians.
The parents and the husband of the deceased have since been informed.
“We have facilitated release of papers so that they can come here and do what they want to do at the grave,” Mupunga said, adding that the relatives had no problems with the procedures that were taken in burying the body.
“We did a malaria rapid test on the body and it was negative,” Mupunga said.
Muzarabani is a malaria hotspot. So we do not know. We are waiting for the final results,” he said.
Two police officers, who came into contact with the body are under quarantine at the mission hospital, while four other people, who also came into contact with the woman, are under quarantine at Chadereka Clinic.