THE United States government has pledged to continue assisting Zimbabwe in its COVID-19 fight thorough cash and technical support, but implored Harare to play its part by enforcing World Health Organisation (WHO) measures such as social distancing.
BY SHARON SIBINDI
US ambassador to Zimbabwe Brian Nichols said while his country and the rest of the international community were supporting Zimbabwe, the country should mitigate the spread of the deadly virus.
In an interview with a private radios station, ZiFM Stereo on Wednesday, Nichols noted with concern the increasing instances of people queuing for basic goods without observing social distancing which he said could be the death knell on the fragile country’s fight against the virus that has overwhelmed health systems of developed nations.
“I would encourage Zimbabweans to focus on the things that you can control. Among those is social distancing. I see folks lining up outside a store or something like that, to buy items,” Nichols said.
“If people can just space themselves out a little bit more, that will help a lot. Hand washing – I know not everyone has access to running water, but wash your hands as frequently as you can.
“If you can cover your face, that helps you and others stay safer when you are not able to distance yourself as much. Those things can really help. It is a global challenge, but we are going to get through this and the American people will stand with the people of Zimbabwe always.”
The US, with over 330 million people, has so far recorded over 60 000 deaths and close to one million infections. But Nichols said he was sure that his country, with an advanced health system, would prevail over the virulent virus.
Nichols said his country since independence has advanced $3 billion worth of aid to Zimbabwe, the bulk of it committed to the health sector.
He pledged to continue assisting the southern African country reeling under sanctions from his country over human rights violations.
“I think that for all countries we need to increase investments in all the areas that I mentioned and the United States has been a leading health partner around the world,” Nichols said.
“And certainly, in Zimbabwe, we have provided over a billion dollars in healthcare assistance to the people of this nation that has been focused largely on HIV and Aids, malaria and tuberculosis.
He added: “We have also co-operated on many other health issues over the last two decades, or really I should say since independence, and we are going to continue to do that.
“We have just announced on Wednesday additional assistance for COVID-19 which brings our bilateral assistance for COVID-19 for Zimbabwe up to about US$3 million. I expect that we will be announcing further assistance in the coming days.”
He said his country would use the assets it has in the country towards Zimbabwe’s fight against COVID-19 and already has technical staff in the country training health workers on how to deal with the virus.
“We already have a US Centres for Disease Control office here with epidemiologists, physicians and health experts across a full range of issues who are working on COVID-19 now, providing training, for example, on how to follow up contacts of someone who has tested positive; laboratory preparedness and treatment options.
“Five of them are working in the WHO and Health and Child Care ministry working groups. So, they are there everyday providing their technical expertise to sharpen and improve the COVID-19 response here in Zimbabwe,” he said.