…as Zim builds US$26,4m COVID-19 war chest

THE World Health Organisation (WHO) has urged the African continent to brace for the worst in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.


The warning came as Zimbabwe yesterday launched a US$26,4 million kitty to fight the deadly virus.

The southern African country is one of the only 17 countries on the continent yet to record an infection of the deadly novel virus that has grounded most of Europe, Asia and Americas and put the world economy in a spin.

Namibia recorded its third case yesterday, a 61-year-old German who arrived in the country from Amsterdam via Zimbabwe, where he was two days ago.

According to WHO, there were 633 cases and 17 deaths in 33 countries in Africa, but Zimbabwe was yet to record any suspected cases by yesterday in addition to the 15 reported previously.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the Ethiopian director-general of WHO, on Wednesday warned Africa to brace for the worst.

“The best advice for Africa is to prepare for the worst and prepare today,” he said.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa launched Zimbabwe’s national preparedness and response plan at State House in the capital yesterday.

A few hours later, however, he addressed a crowd of over 500 people at the launch of policies on energy, breaking his own ban of 100 or more people gatherings in one place for the second day in a row.

Zimbabwe’s development partners among them People’s Republic of China and United Kingdom put up US$26,388 million, while the government contributed $20 million towards preparing of key infrastructure like hospitals, clinics and isolation centres.

The plan, guided by the eight pillars of WHO’s strategic preparedness and response plan, includes prevention, containment and mitigation strategies in line with the different COVID-19 transmission scenarios.

According to the plan’s annual budget summary starting this month, US$12 144 606 has been set aside for logistics, procurement and supply management, US$1 424 100 for co-ordination, planning and monitoring, US$1 098 500 will be for risk communication and community engagement and US$4 159 890 for surveillance, rapid response and case investigation including points of entry (POE).

About US$112 440 will be channelled towards POE, US$3 119 454 set aside for national laboratory system, US$238 850 to be channelled towards infection prevention and control with US$4 090 540 set aside for case management.

In his address at the launch, Mnangagwa said Zimbabwe could not continue with business as usual as it was no longer a matter of if, but when the country will record confirmed COVID-19 cases.

“The dynamics of this pandemic have changed. Considering the scale and magnitude of the spread of this virus, it is very clear that no country is immune from the disease or will be spared from its impact,” Mnangagwa said.

“This plan will enable us to have an integrated and co-ordinated management strategy that will focus on preventing COVID-19 outbreak in Zimbabwe and mitigating the severity of its impact.”

He added: “Closer to home, around 30 or more African countries have reported confirmed cases of COVID-19 and in our region seven out of our 16 Sadc countries have confirmed cases. Therefore, as Zimbabwe, we cannot continue with business as usual as it is no longer a matter of if, but when our country will have these cases.”

He said a coronavirus outbreak in a country pummelled by a high HIV perseverance of 14%, malnutrition and other non-communicable diseases, especially among children, and a collapsed public health delivery system, would be catastrophic.

“Our preparedness has been stepped up through heightened surveillance systems at national, provincial and district levels with special focus on all ports of entry throughout the country, mandatory screening of all visitors entering the country at our ports of entry has started, and all our government buildings and infrastructure should be screening with immediate effect,” he said.

He said active surveillance and follow-ups will continue in order to minimise the spread of the virus that has so far claimed over 8 000 lives globally.

Mnangagwa said the government through the Health and Child Care ministry had put in place and continues to enhance measures to minimise the import of COVID-19 into the country and ensure safety of all citizens.

“Work is in progress to strengthen the capacity of identified isolation centres to be able to manage severe cases throughout the country.

“Of course, there is no confirmed case yet in Zimbabwe, but considering the volume of traffic between Zimbabwe and other countries in our region and internationally, we need to step up and enhance our preparedness and response to the scourge,” he said.

lAdditional reporting by Lorraine Muromo, Al-Jazeera