Spike in Covid-19 cases in schools raises super spreader fears

The recent outbreak of Covid-19 positive cases in schools has raised fears that classrooms may become the next incubators for large coronavirus cases.

This comes after 55 new cases were reported at Sacred Heart schools in Esigodini.

These 55 positive cases are part of the 68 new local cases reported on April 8, 2021, bringing Zimbabwe’s national total of confirmed Covid-19 cases to 37 052.

The previous day on April 7, 2021 only 18 new cases were reported across the country.

On April 7, 2021, Sacred Heart Headmistress, Sister Ludo Ncube, wrote a letter to parents and guardians confirming at that time, there were five learned tested positive for Covid-19 at the school.

“On behalf of the school family I would like to confirm five cases of Covid-19 all being pupils at our schools. Tests for Covid-19 were administered at Esigodini Hospital after realising that nine of our students had flu symptoms. We sent nine of them to the hospital,  five of them tested positive and four negative. The tests were conducted this morning on April 7, 2021,” she said.

Contact tracing was conducted and 51 new cases were recorded comprising of 45 boarders, four day-scholars and two staff members.

These recent Covid-19 cases at Sacred Heart come after Girls College and Mzilikazi Primary School in Bulawayo also reported positive cases.

Acting Chief Executive Officer for Mpilo Central Hospital, Professor Solwayo Ngwenya, now renowned as a Covid-19 health advocate, warned the public of the dangers of re-opening schools in a pandemic.

“I was against schools opening because children can become vectors who can move the disease. Even with the kinds of hygiene, masking and physical distancing rules proposed by the schools, children will move the disease as they attend school, board kombis and buses that we see being full,” he said.

Prof Ngwenya noted he was aware of calls made by the public for a prompt reopening of classrooms, claiming benefits of returning schoolchildren to classrooms outweighed the risks of keeping them home but insisted that schools could become potential super spreaders.

He also expressed worry, saying children were less likely to show symptoms therefore the real rate of infection among them could be much higher.

“This means more testing is required as I have said it is unknown how effectively children might spread the virus to both other children and adults. But these figures of children testing positive might be an indication,” Prof Ngwenya said.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Health and Child Care said as of April 8, 2021 and as at 4pm, 13 305 people received their first dose bringing cumulative numbers for those vaccinated with first vaccine doses to 166 543.

955 people also received their second doses bringing cumulative for second dose  to 27 134, meaning this is the number that has been fully vaccinated against Covid-19.

Out of the 37 052 confirmed Covid-19 cases in Zimbabwe,  34 814 people have recoveries while 1 532 died.

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