VICE-PRESIDENT and Health and Child Care minister Constantino Chiwenga yesterday said Zimbabwe was still in good stead to handle the COVID-19 pandemic, arguing that public health facilities were still not yet strained.
Chiwenga said government was in full control in terms of managing the pandemic. He also said government was cautious about vaccination against the virus which he said would be “voluntary” when it will eventually be rolled out across the country.
But early this week, Medical and Dental Private Practitioners of Zimbabwe Association president Johannes Marisa urged government to decentralise COVID-19 testing and management as well as turn all council clinics into COVID-19 centres.
Chiwenga in a statement yesterday, blamed social media for propagating lies that the country’s bedding facilities were already strained, arguing of all the 25 000 cumulative cases, 85% were in self-isolation. The Vice-President said Zimbabwe has enough beds to accommodate serious cases, and government remained alert to expand the facilities if demand increased.
Doctors have expressed concern over the low number of bedding facilities in the country at a time cases were rising on a daily bases. Doctors for Human Rights claimed Zimbabwe only 30 has Intensive Care Unit beds.
“In light of widely circulating reports alleging that there is a serious deficit of hospital beds, let me point out that these were embellished social media allegations by some pen-mercenaries,” Chiwenga said.
“However, if the need arises in future, my ministry may consider options of increasing facilities currently designated for COVID-19 or designate more hospitals to take in patients.
“In a worst-case scenario, that has so far not manifested, all hospitals in the country may be directed to take in citizens affected by COVID 19.”
Zimbabwe is currently experiencing a spiralling of COVID-19 positive cases during the second wave of infections which has seen it record 25 368 confirmed cases, 14 714 recoveries, 10 018 active cases, while a total 47 people lost their lives as of yesterday bringing to 636 COVID 19-inspired deaths.
Chiwenga said as the Health Minister, he was urging citizens not to panic but to rely on official information, urging the public not to be anxious about vaccination as the government was treating the matter with due diligence.
“I am also aware that some of our citizens are anxious to get vaccinated. The government is following the development and dissemination of COVID 19 vaccines by other states, with keen interest. Zimbabwe has adopted a measured approach, with experts interrogating all safety concerns,” he said.
“As soon as all technical and administrative obligations are met, Zimbabweans can expect to be vaccinated.
“The vaccination is going to be voluntary. Let me underscore that my ministry is doing everything possible to ensure that our citizens are safe from possible side-effects of some COVID-19 vaccines, currently on the shelf.”
Chiwenga also claimed that his ministry was giving out COVID-19 Nair allowances to health workers, including personal protective equipment as a way of managing the virus. Nurses last week briefly downed tools demanding protective clothing, while also disclosing that the health workers have not received any money from government as COVID-19 risk allowances.