Positive tourist, exposed patient and more: highlights of health minister’s March 16 COVID-19 update

Health Minister Obadiah Moyo

Minister of Health and Child Care, Obadiah Moyo, held a press conference late Monday afternoon to update the country on COVID-19, hours after neighbouring South Africa confirmed its 62nd case.

Here are the highlights of Moyo’s press briefing:

  • As of 16 March, 2020, Zimbabwe has no confirmed case of COVID-19.
  • On Sunday, 15 March, the health ministry received a report of a suspected case in Bulawayo, involving a female traveller who travelled from South Africa on Monday, 9 March. She had gone to seek medical attention for other reasons from a general practitioner in South Africa. She later received a call from the public health personnel in SA advising her that her doctor had been put in self quarantine after one of the patients the doctor had attended to tested positive for COVID-19. This patient is now under self-quarantine together with those who stay with her. 
  • Today, March 16, the authorities received another alert about a tourist from the United Kingdom who was in the Victoria Falls from March 7 to March 10. The tourist exited through South Africa, where they visited Kruger Park. They stayed a few days in South Africa, before flying to the United Kingdom where they were tested and found to be positive for the coronavirus. The Victoria Falls lodge where the tourist stayed has been cordoned off, with everyone in there being quarantined and tested.
  • There are two other cases now detained at Wilkins, involving a pair of recent travellers. One of the travellers arrived from Shanghai, China, on an Ethiopian Airlines flight, while the other arrived from London, on Kenyan Airways. The two were isolated at Wilkins on March 16, awaiting test results.
  • Cabinet will tomorrow, March 17, consider other measures to deal with the COVID-19 threat, in light of the growing number of cases in neighbouring South Africa, where 62 confirmed cases were reported by Monday afternoon. Moyo said school closures, travel bans and the suspension of big gatherings were beyond his ministry’s remit, adding that such ‘drastic’ measures, if they were to be taken, would be announced by the president. On Monday, the president’s spokesperson used Twitter to telegraph a ban on big public gatherings, such as political demonstrations.
  • President Emmerson Mnangagwa will, on Thursday, 18 March, announce the government’s National Preparedness and Response Plan.
  • Key numbers: the ministry has, to date, monitored about 1,000 suspected COVID-19 cases. The country’s leading COVID-19 facilities, Wilkins in Harare and Thorngrove in Bulawayo, have capacity to isolate 35 and 20 cases, respectively.