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Doctors link spike in Covid-19 cases to inhuman conditions at quarantine centres

Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights (ZADHR) is of the view that the recent spike in Covid-19 cases in the country could have been triggered by the poor living conditions at quarantine centres. 

In a statement published as part of its continuous audit of the Covid-19 response in Zimbabwe, the doctors noted that conditions at these isolation facilities fall far below the minimum World Health Organisation (WHO) standards. 

Zimbabwe, which to date has 237 confirmed covid-19 cases, recorded its highest one-day spike on May 27, 2020 where positive cases leapt to 132 from 63 the previous day, with most of the cases emanating from returnees. 

ZADHR said they have in the past two weeks received reports from various quarantine centers across the country where returnees are being asked to pay for their own test kits which range from US$25 to US$65. 

“ZADHR has received reports of shortage of screening and test kits at quarantine centres in Harare, Gweru, Chinhoyi and Victoria Falls and in some cases returnees being asked to pay for testing costs ranging between USD25.00 to USD65.00 per test,” read the statement. 

“This sad scenario is further compounded by the poor state of the quarantine facilities whose standards fall far below the WHO minimum standards. ZADHR strongly suspects that the recent spike in cases in quarantine centres is a result of the poor living conditions at the quarantine facilities.”

ZADHR said there have been reports that at Girls High School, in Gweru, Chinhoyi and Victoria Falls returnees share dormitories and sleep close to each other in violation of the social and physical distancing, exposing them to the infection. 

“Returnees share ablution facilities which are dirty and in a state of disrepair. There is lack of regular facilities disinfection contrary to the COVID-19 guidelines and the President’s pronouncements. Also, no sanitisers are being provided to the occupants, posing a serious health risk,” read the statement. 

“Utensils are not being washed with soap and are inadequate. Returnees, particularly women, are reported to be taking turns to reuse the same plates, cups, spoons and other utensils. The absence of running water forcing the returnees to fetch water for drinking, bathing and flushing toilets using buckets.” 

ZADHR further noted that despite the High Court of Zimbabwe ruling that government should provide PPE to all frontline health professionals and officers working at quarantine facilities throughout the country, this has not been done. 

“Health professionals are exposed to the infection. We urge the Ministry of Health and Child Care to prioritise health workers in these facilities as the quarantine facilities have become the new hotspots for covid-19 in Zimbabwe,” the statement read.

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