By Fortunate Muzarabani
Panic gripped the residents of Warnborough Mansions in Bulawayo on Friday afternoon after a resident was whisked away by the Bulawayo City Council (BCC) Rapid Response Team on suspicion he had contracted COVID-19.
When CITE arrived at the flat, another Rapid Response Team had set up desks at the entrance to the flat and were testing every resident for COVID-19.
The panic-stricken residents were speculating that the resident who had been taken away had tested positive, while some were afraid of getting tested and were reluctant to come out of their apartments to undergo testing.
Bulawayo has to date recorded 12 positive cases of the virus and one death.
While addressing journalists at Mpilo Central hospital about the Warnborough Mansions incident, the Acting Bulawayo Provincial Medical Director Dr Welcome Mlilo said the person, a male, had been removed from the flat to ensure the safety of the family and the rest of the residents.
According to the caretaker who spoke to CITE, no less than 600 people stay at the seven-floor flat, located along Joshua Mqabuko Street and Corner 4th avenue.
Dr Mlilo could not be drawn to confirm if the person had tested positive for the virus as he said such announcements were only made at the national command centre but said the gentleman had been moved to a “facility that houses all positive cases which cannot self-isolate at home”.
Dr Mlilo said it was challenging to allow people to self-quarantine at home if they lived in flats as they shared a lot of space with other tenants, a scenario he described as too risky to let a positive person stay at home under such an arrangement.
“In a home where there is limited space, self-isolation is impossible. Some of our people will be overcrowded at home. As a ministry, we come in and we do that infected person out of that home to protect the rest of the family members until that person is recovered,” said Dr Mlilo.
“So for these particular cases that you are referring to, the person at the flat, we are removing that person from that flat. This is in progress if it is not already complete. The (gentleman) in question is being moved to a facility where we have now identified a facility which will house all the confirmed cases that cannot be isolated for one reason or another,” he said.
He said where people used a different entrance from the rest of the family or public, provisions could be made to allow them to self-isolate at home.
Dr Mlilo said all persons allowed to self-isolate at home would have proven to have homes that are compatible for home self-isolation.
“There are so many complexities that come with a flat scenario for instance, they will be using one entrance, with everyone else. They will be using the same staircase, they will be using one lift. So it’s a bit complex, so we are aware of that and we are moving that gentleman out of that space to protect the rest of the family and the rest of the flat residents,” he said.
He said the BCC Rapid Response team was reliable and would trace everyone who was in contact with the said person, adding that the tracing and testing could take a bit of time due to the high population of the seven-story flat.
“We trace everyone we do not miss anyone so everyone in that flat, the seven-story flat, so there is quite an impressive number of people to go through. At the present moment, we tried to get that number from the caretaker but when we say a flat should house two people and you have seven people, you will always smuggle other people. We cannot rely on those numbers from the caretaker.
“We will have to go to each household by household to have that comprehensive information so that we do not miss anyone,” said Dr Mlilo.
He said the Rapid response teams are following up on the residents at the flat and other people who were in contact with the suspected patient and said the process could take a couple of days.
“The rapid response teams are actively following those people up and probably by a certain day next week we will have all the chain links,” said Dr Mlilo.