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Health Minister Bullish On Coronavirus Preparedness

Health and Childcare Minister Dr Obadiah Moyo insists that Zimbabwe is ready to deal with the novel coronavirus (COID-19) with the major concern being the country’s border posts, particularly the Beitbridge Border Post.

This comes as fears are rising after South African President, Cyril Ramaphosa, Sunday announced that his country will be closing some borders in light of the increasing numbers positive cases of the coronavirus.

During the brief, Ramaphosa did not specifically name which borders would close but his  Home Affairs Minister, Aaron Motsoaledi told the media that although they had closed 35 land ports, they were not going to shut down Beitbridge because of its high economic activity as a commercial hub for Sadc region.

“We have only one border post with Zimbabwe – Beitbridge. We will never close that one. It’s the gateway to the rest of the continent,” Mostoaledi said on Monday.

The Zimbabwe government said they remain committed to ensuring that the border remains open and is intensifying efforts to properly screen travellers to alleviate the spread of the virus.

“As Zimbabwe, we are continuously getting prepared, preparations are unending, every day we get something new and we continue updating. This is a new disease which has occurred, therefore, we can’t run away from the fact that even in China when they got it, they were not prepared and they had to gear up and sort themselves out.

“I have personally visited the Beitbridge Border Post and its specifically the border that is affecting us because that is next door to South Africa, and we made sure that the border is well prepared.

“We have 13 000 people coming in every month, 6 million a year, so its a whole population, coming through from one country to the other,” Moyo said.

He further stated that they have made sure that everyone is working as a team member at the borders and are working with port health, the soldiers, the police and immigration, ZIMRA officials.

Zimbabwe has not recorded a COVID-19 case but the major worry has been that the virus could be imported into the country especially with high traffic volumes at ports of entry like the Beitbridge Border Post.

“The major thrust has been the borders, we do not have the virus in Zimbabwe, therefore to ensure that we continue being at zero COVID19 position. So we are working on the borders, we are making sure that we have adequate testing equipment,” Moyo added.

He also noted that Zimbabwe continues to get the latest equipment which makes it easier for detection of the virus which has infected more than 1800 000 people worldwide while 7111 people have died

“We have utilized, our cooperate organisation here in Zimbabwe, they have bought the latest technology in as far as thermal detection is concerned and we check the temperatures of everyone who is arriving at our borders, airports and ground port, so in that respect, we are fairly strong,” Moyo bullishly said.

However, just like the world over, Zimbabwe is likely to be hit by an acute shortage of protective clothing like face masks and space suits for health officials.

The Health Minister, however, said they will continue banking on the goodwill of their “friends”

“As for protective equipment, there is now a scramble for protective equipment worldwide, so it’s not just us who might not have adequate masks or space suits, its other countries as well. But we continue utilizing our friends who have access to the products and we are getting a few at a time and we hope we can be able to stock adequate masks…

“People whose temperatures will be high will be immediately quarantined at the border, we already have that facility.
While they are waiting to be shipped out to Bulawayo, Thorngrove, which is our centre for isolation in the southern regions.

“We just need to continue sprucing up our facilities, even Wilkins, we need to bring in new machines. The Chinese government is going to refurbish Wilkins Hospital, likewise, they will refurbish Thorngrove,” Moyo said.

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