Bulawayo is currently facing a shortage of quarantine facilities as the number of returnees from outside the country and local transmissions continue to increase, a government official has said.
The second-largest city currently has three quarantine centres for returning residents, which are Khumalo Hotel, Insinga and Standard Hotel.
But the city needs more facilities to house returnees for mandatory quarantine and officials are now pinning hope on schools stepping up once again since their re-opening date was deferred.
Statistics from the Ministry of Health and Child Care indicated it was mostly returnees who escalated Zimbabwe’s Covid-19 caseload, which necessitates the need for returning residents to be quarantined and tested.
As of July 19, Bulawayo has 489 confirmed cases, of which 448 are local transmissions and 35 imported cases.
The Provincial Taskforce on Covid-19 is also going ahead with its plans to turn Rio Hostels in Ward 9, into a quarantine centre despite protests from residents in Matshobana.
In an interview with CITE, Chairperson of Information and Publicity sub-committee of the Provincial Taskforce on Covid-19 outbreak, Miriam Chigonde, confirmed the city needed more quarantine space.
“We are out of space, we don’t have enough but we are working on a plan, hoping to use schools as alternative centres since the re-opening of the school was deferred. The task force is seeking authority from the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education to have at least two to four schools set aside for the quarantine purpose,” she said.
Chigonde noted the taskforce was looking at the possibility of having boarding schools in Bulawayo turned into quarantine centres.
She also added that despite ‘problems’ with Rio Hostels becoming a quarantine facility, the provincial taskforce was going ahead with its plans to turn it into an alternative centre.
“Residents of the hostel said they can’t share the accommodation with returnees, as they fear exposure to Covid-19. But the plans are ongoing as the Provincial Administrator is carrying on with requisitions for repairs,” said Chigonde who is also Bulawayo’s Provincial Information Officer under the ministry of information.
Acting Provincial Medical Director, Dr Welcome Mlilo noted that conditions at the three current quarantine centres had “improved markedly,” as these were “lodges as opposed to the learning institutions” that were previously used.
He said to avoid shortages of quarantine accommodation space, they were in the process of identifying more centres around the city.
“We are in the process of identifying more centres, as numbers of returning residents fluctuate. Our job is to plan and anticipate challenges before they occur. This is why this process is ongoing as we expect the number of returnees to continue to increase,” Dr Mlilo said.
Dr Mlilo added that despite challenges raised previously concerning overcrowding, Bulawayo would be prepared to accommodate a surge of returnees.
“We are identifying more new centres. My job is not to lie. I aim to give as accurate information as I can,” said the acting PMD.