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Coronavirus surge: Byo residents violating health protocols

Bulawayo residents are reportedly breaking Covid-19 health protocols including visiting relatives who have tested positive to the pandemic, a development health officials say may explain the latest increase in infections in the city.

Health officials say they have received a number of tip-offs of people who are not adhering to the laid down preventative measures against the highly infectious virus.

Bulawayo has seen an increase in numbers of people testing positive and this week recorded a majority of the new Covid-19 cases in the country.

The city has the highest number of active cases countrywide, forcing authorities to go back to institutional isolation and do away with home isolation as residents are not abiding to preventative rules.

On October 18, of the new 37 Covid-19 cases recorded nationally, 20 came from Bulawayo bringing the province’s active cases to 116 when the whole country had a total of 238 active cases. 

This week has also seen some council employees and local football players testing positive for Covid-19, which proves the virus is still alive in the city.

In an interview with CITE, acting Bulawayo Provincial Medical Director, Dr Welcome Mlilo urged residents to remain vigilant against the virus.

“We see people are no longer on guard, even when you walk into supermarkets some staffers don’t take temperatures or sanitise you,” he said.

“We have also received anonymous tips that people visit relatives who have tested positive at their homes and later become contacts of these people when contact tracing is done.”

Dr Mlilo noted it was easy for Covid-19 to spread if people failed to follow prescribed measures.

“Fully knowing that they have visited relatives who have Covid-19, people then go to work, go to banks and mingle. We need to really take up these preventative measures because the number of Covid-19 cases are shooting up so we need to be vigilant,” he urged.

The acting PMD said this was why authorities had gone back to placing people under institutional isolation.

“There’s now need to go back to institutional isolation because home isolation has brought challenges. We will isolate you for the mandatory 10 days because home has been giving us challenges and we think we may be in trouble due to those breaches,” Dr Mlilo said.

Elangeni Training Centre was re-opened Monday to cater for the growing number of people testing positive to Covid-19 in Bulawayo.

Besides the disregard for protocols, another challenge is the water crisis, as people are failing to meet their sanitary requirements.

“Science says washing hands under running water is one of the most preventative measures against Covid-19 but if there’s no running water that is a challenge,” said the acting PMD.

He hoped that the city would receive better rains since the city’s supply dams were drying up.

Not wanting to fault anyone, Dr Mlilo added both the Bulawayo City Council (BCC) and Zimbabwe National Water Authority (ZINWA) were taking large steps to improve water supply in the city.

“We know there’s no water in the dams and both BCC and ZINWA are putting up a brave fight to rehabilitate aquifers and boreholes in Nyamandlovu. So we need rain to be in a better position,” he said.

Dr Mlilo noted water shortages not only added to the spread of Covid-19 but brought more water borne diseases.

 “Covid-19 is not the only threat as we have typhoid, cholera and there’s been a diarrhoea outbreak.  We hope the rains will come soon and improve the water situation because shortages of water are very much closely tied to outbreak of water-borne diseases,” he noted.

Director of the City’s Health Services Department, Dr Edwin Sibanda, confirmed the Rapid Response Team had to evacuate some council employees from a council residential flat near the Revenue Hall.

“We learnt they were positive last week so yesterday (Tuesday) we removed them to Elangeni,” he said.

Dr Sibanda, however, did not have figures of how many people were infected at the flat.

“Ideally those are council flats but now also house council retirees and relatives to council employees,” he said.

As for the water crisis in the city, Dr Sibanda concurred that the water shortage was a serious challenge.

“We all know there are water shortages but when the city tried to have the crisis declared a national disaster, we heard there is enough water. Now where is that water?” he said.

Dr Sibanda added that due to water shortages, residents had to prioritise what to do with water, which meant certain acts fell by the side.

“When you have one last bucket of water, one that you queued for hours, you can’t really use it to wash your hands when you need to cook. There is now prioritisation by residents on what to do,” he said.

As of October 20, Zimbabwe recorded 8 187 confirmed Covid-19 cases, with 7 692 recoveries and 233 deaths.

Bulawayo has recorded a total of 1 581 Covid-19 cases since the virus broke out in Zimbabwe on March 20.

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