Zimbabwe reports record daily COVID-19 infection numbers

Zim looking to step up testing and vaccinations as cases rise (pic: Tafadzwa Ufumeli/Getty)

Zimbabwe has reported its highest number of daily COVID-19 infections since the pandemic began.

A total of 4031 people tested positive for the virus on Tuesday, with five deaths recorded. The previous highest daily number of new infections was on July 14, 2021, when 3110 people tested positive. On that day, 58 people died.

Tuesday’s 4031 infections were detected from 11 535 tests. This gave a positivity rate of 34.9%. The rate means that out of every 100 of those who did get tested, 35 people were infected. Just two weeks ago, that rate was 1.4%, a sign of the pace of the spread.

In two weeks, the seven-day rolling average for new cases has surged from 27 to 1572 on Tuesday.

All new cases reported on Tuesday were local.

Government has raised alarm over rising cases.

“Cabinet notes with concern that there has been a sharp increase in the average total number of new cases reported per day during the past two weeks,” Information Minister Monica Mutsvangwa said at a post-cabinet media briefing on Tuesday.

Last week, Zimbabwe confirmed its first cases of the omicron variant. The variant is known to spread faster, but scientists say early data shows that it may cause less severe illness than previous waves. However, officials fear infections may overwhelm hospitals, as was the case in previous waves.

Ministry of Health data shows that, as of Tuesday, there were 226 people admitted in hospitals for COVID-19 treatment, up from 23 two weeks ago.

Of these 226 in hospital, 173 had mild to moderate symptoms, 39 had severe symptoms, 13 had no symptoms, while one needed intensive care.

However, the data does not show how many of those are vaccinated.

The country has fully vaccinated 2.91 million citizens so far, but is pushing to reach more people amid vaccine hesitancy and distribution problems.

Government is setting up vaccination sites at the main intra and inter-city bus terminals to ensure that those not vaccinated can receive shots of vaccine voluntarily before boarding. Eventually, Mutsvangwa told reporters, only vaccinated people would be allowed to use public transport.

“Please note that there will be a time when people will not be allowed to board public transport without a valid vaccination card,” Mutsvangwa said.

Government has already made vaccines mandatory for its workers. The Ministry of Health is also stepping up vaccinations for 16-17-year-olds.