Elita Chikwati and Talent Gore
ZIMBABWE and Chinese authorities are encouraging travellers between the two countries to either delay or cancel unnecessary journeys to stop the spread of the novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) which has killed 81 people in the Asian country from 2 886 confirmed cases of infection in the past month.
Surveillance systems in Zimbabwe have also been activated with special focus being put on the main ports of entry and exit; Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport, Joshua Nkomo International Airport and Victoria Falls and Beitbridge ground ports.
This comes as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation on Sunday announced a US$10 million commitment in emergency funds and additional technical support to help responders in China and Africa contain the spread of the 2019-nCoV.
In a statement, the foundation said US$5 million will go to China while the other half will assist the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention in scaling up public health measures against 2019-nCoV among African Union (AU) member states.
“These measures will include technical support to implement the screening and treatment of suspected cases, laboratory confirmation of 2019-nCoV diagnoses and the safe isolation and care of identified cases,” said the foundation.
The Ministry of Health and Child Care has confirmed that Zimbabwe is under threat from the disease due to its close relations with China.
Zimbabwe, however, does not have direct flights to and from China, which minimises the risk.
Health and Child Care Minister Dr Obadiah Moyo yesterday toured Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport’s surveillance section to assess the screening of people coming into Zimbabwe.
Dr Moyo said he was happy with the process adding that they were going to perfect some of the areas.
“It is necessary that as the Ministry of Health and Government of Zimbabwe that we protect our nation against any outbreaks of diseases and at this particular instance we are dealing and talking about the novel Coronavirus.
“The epicentre at the moment is Wuhan Province in China and we are very happy that we have been communicating with the Chinese Embassy and they have also advised us that they have also put a delay in travel and cancelling unnecessary travels to Zimbabwe so that is good.
“There are Zimbabweans who are also living in China and some who fly to China for business, we have heard one or two cases and we are currently monitoring them.
“We have to make sure that we have all the equipment necessary to detect any persons or visitors to make sure that they do not
and so we are making sure that our airports are well covered and that our personnel are well-trained in the processes of checking on all those who are coming to Zimbabwe,” he said.
Although no cases are confirmed in African nations, health officials in Côte d’Ivoire on Sunday said they were investigating a suspected case of a student arriving in Abidjan from Wuhan, the Chinese province at the epicentre of the outbreak. It is the first such case on the continent.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), coronaviruses are a family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).
The virus is highly contagious and there is no cure for Coronavirus as with most viral infections.
So far, only experimental treatments have been used in China with success in stabilising patients.
An ARV, Kaletra (ritonavir and lopinavir) has been used.
Coronavirus symptoms include pneumonia, high fever, flu like symptoms, chest pains, diarrhoea and shortness of breath.
Precautions include covering the mouth when coughing or sneezing, washing hands the same way as people do when guarding against cholera and typhoid.
Although Zimbabwe is located thousands of miles away from the source of the coronavirus, it remains at great risk considering the volume of traffic the country gets from China for tourism and business.
A novel coronavirus, is a new strain of virus that has not been previously identified in human beings.
The Ministry of Health and Child Care said in the case of the disease spreading to Zimbabwe, it was prepared to deal with it despite the difficult operating environment.
Since last week, almost 70 people who arrived from Wuhan have been under monitoring for the signs and symptoms of the rare respiratory infection.
The people will be monitored for 21 days although they are not under quarantine. They are however, expected to inform the Ministry of Health of their whereabouts and are encouraged to report any symptoms.
Minister Moyo said the ministry was making all efforts to make sure the virus did not end up in Zimbabwe.