BY MOSES MATENGA
LANDS minister Perrance Shiri and an unnamed top official in the Finance ministry are reportedly seriously ill after they came into close contact with COVID-19 cases, NewsDay has learnt.
Well-informed government sources revealed that Shiri and the Finance ministry official visited a private hospital in Belgravia on Monday, raising suspicion that the two could be receiving treatment for the deadly virus.
Shiri is said to have been exposed to the virus by his driver, whom sources claimed died on Saturday and was buried the following day, while the Finance ministry official was in contact with the late former Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe director Norman Mataruka, who reportedly succumbed to COVID-19 on Monday.
Presidential spokesperson George Charamba claimed the former Air Force of Zimbabwe boss was on “a precautionary self-quarantine” after his driver was reportedly ill with suspected COVID-19.
“I am not so sure about (Minister Shiri) being in hospital, but I know for a fact that Minister Shiri’s driver is not well,” he said.
“What I am not sure (about) right now is whether the minister is hospitalised or has just taken a precaution to self-quarantine while waiting to be cleared.”
Added Charamba: “I know for a fact that in the Finance ministry, there was some exposure of one of the officers.
“These are high interface ministries and to that extent, they may be quite vulnerable, so we have to think in terms of what precautions we have to take to ensure that we protect officers within those ministries with high interactivity with the public, but without at the same time limiting their outreach programmes which are so critical in the development of the economy.”
Two MPs on Monday tested positive to the respiratory disease, although sources say as many as eight were victims.
NewsDay understands that the Lands ministry closed its head office yesterday after the reported cases, raising fears that more people could have been exposed.
Workers were advised to return home yesterday after initially being told they would be screened for the virus.
Testing, however, failed to take place allegedly due to unavailability of test kits.
A memorandum by the ministry’s human resources department admitted some staff members had already been tested for the virus and those workers would be away from work until Monday August 3.
Data bundles will be purchased for the workers to work from home and that the permanent secretary will hold a virtual conference with them on Friday July 31, the memo read.
Ministers and senior government officials interact on a regular basis for high-profile meetings.