Health authorities at Zimbabwe’s ports of entry have moved to reduce the possible spread of the deadly coronavirus by screening visitors and monitoring threats.
Coronavirus broke out in China’s Wuhan City, and has so far claimed 170 lives from 7 711 cases reported, of which 400 people are critical, while 68 cases have been reported in 10 other countries, including Australia, the United States, United Kingdom, Canada and Japan.
More than 60 000 people are under observation in China where it has spread to every province.
Although there are no confirmed cases of the infection in Africa, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared the virus a global public health emergency.
Port officials at Chirundu and Kariba border posts have stepped up surveillance and screening of inbound travellers for the coronavirus, targeting mostly those who have been to Asia recently.
The port authorities, including the Immigration Department, the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) and Ministry of Health and Child Care’s Port Health section are collaborating to identify potential cases and Victoria Falls, the country’s tourism hub is a cause for concern.
Victoria Falls, has four ports of entry which are the Victoria Falls International Airport, Victoria Falls Border Post, Kazungula and Pandamatenga border posts.
However, the airport is the only entry point which is monitoring and screening for the respiratory infection, citing lack of equipment and less likelihood of infected people coming from Zambia and Botswana, which are in any case also screening.
Secretary for Health and Child Care Dr Agnes Mahomva said the ministry has stepped up the monitoring process by screening everyone who is coming from infected areas.
“The surveillance team remains on high alert at all points of entry and health facilities. Screening is being conducted to all those coming from affected countries,” she said.
“Our team is currently taking these people’s particulars such as their areas of visit, their temperatures, the duration of stay in Zimbabwe, and other details for surveillance.”
She said there were no suspected cases of the coronavirus in country yet.
“So far, none of the people who are arriving in Zimbabwe have been found to be demonstrating symptoms.
“The authorities, the health authorities in Zimbabwe know where these travellers are going and they check on them on a daily basis to ensure that they don’t develop symptoms and then give them the right information if they develop the symptoms on what to do,” said Dr Mahomva.
Officials at Kariba Border Post said the Ministry of Health and Child Care had conducted an awareness session on what to look out for.
“The district medical officer and his team were here today to inform people manning the border post in various capacities on what to look out for concerning the coronavirus condition.
“We can say we are raring to go, but these ports of entry are not high risk when it comes to the coronavirus condition,” said one of the officials.
Kariba and Chirundu are always on high alert for the Ebola virus which in this part of Africa normally originates in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Another official said they look out for high temperatures from 38 degrees Celsius and above.
At Forbes Border Post, Port Health Office refused to comment on coronavirus. However, sources said officials at the border held a meeting recently over the matter to see how they could implement preventive measures.
Authorities at Beitbridge Border Post say they are on high alert for anyone coming into the country from South Africa who might have travelled to areas affected by coronavirus
District Medical Officer Dr Lenos Samhere said they screen travellers daily and have upgraded disease detection programmes.