HUMAN rights doctors have laid into government over its handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, saying they had noted a “sad scenario” where the fight against the dreaded pandemic was being hampered by the poor living conditions at the quarantine facilities, resulting in the recent spike in cases.
By Garikai Tunhira/Precious Chida
By Wednesday, Zimbabwe had recorded 222 cases, with a surge in cases recorded mostly at quarantine
“This sad scenario is further compounded by the poor state of the quarantine facilities whose standards fall far below the World Health Organisation minimum standards,” the Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights (ZADHR) said in a statement yesterday.
“ZADHR strongly suspects that the recent spike in cases in quarantine centres is a result of the poor living conditions at the quarantine facilities.”
On screening and testing, the doctors said they were worried about the delayed testing of returnees on arrival at quarantine facilities.
“ZADHR received reports that the Girls High quarantine centre, where a group of about 96 returnees — including pregnant women and an infant who were quarantined at Harare Polytechnic College on May 10, 2020 and later moved to Girls High School in Harare for further quarantining, upon arrival at Harare Polytechnic College — were not tested despite some individuals clearly exhibiting flu-like symptoms,” the doctors said.
“The returnees were also not tested upon arrival at Girls High School until Sunday, May 24, 2020 when they were finally tested.
“When returnees were finally tested on May 24, 2020, most of them were not exhibiting signs or symptoms of illness.”
The doctors added: “Results returned four days later on May 28, 2020. At least, 35 of the returnees had tested positive to COVID-19 and were taken to Wilkins Hospital. Chinhoyi quarantine facility has also reported the absence of testing.”
ZADHR said it was concerned about reports that about 150 returnees were released from a Gweru facility four days ahead of schedule on May 24, 2020, after returnees threatened to protest against poor living conditions.
The doctors said they had noted with concern the acquisition, at high prices, of COVID-19-related equipment and consumables by the government, adding “the recent report that government extended a US$1 million tender to Drax International without going to tender is a cause for concern”.
“We urge the ministry to adhere to State procurement regulations to enhance public trust and confidence in an environment where citizens are concerned with individuals profiteering from the crisis through abuse of office,” ZADHR said.
The frontline workers said they had received reports over the past two weeks of shortages of screening and test kits at quarantine centres in Harare, Gweru, Chinhoyi and Victoria Falls and in some cases returnees being asked to pay for testing costs ranging from US$25 to US$65 per test.