Zimbabwe reported its highest daily increase in Covid-19 cases on Wednesday after eight people tested positive for the respiratory illness.
The eight cases – six from the laboratory in Harare and two from the testing facility in Bulawayo – brought the national case total to 40.
The ministry of health provided details for only two of the eight cases, both from Bulawayo. One is a 27-year-old man, a customs officer from the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (ZIMRA), and a 70-year-old man who returned from the United Kingdom on March 18.
The UK returnee is believed to be the source of the ZIMRA employee’s infection, the ministry said.
Both men are stable and self-isolating at home, according to health officials.
“Today, a total of 355 tests were done giving a total of 7,642 screening and diagnostic tests done to date. Of the PCR done in Harare, six were positive for Covid-19. More details will be given in tomorrow’s (Thursday) update,” said the ministry.
Officials say four people have died of Covid-19 in Zimbabwe, the youngest 30 and the oldest 82. Five people, including four members of the same family, have recovered.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa announced a 35-day national lockdown to arrest the spread of the virus, starting March 30.
The regulations are due to expire on May 3, and Mnangagwa – whose government is accused of failing to provide relief to millions of Zimbabweans in need of food aid – is under pressure to re-open the economy.
Speaking on Wednesday, Mnangagwa said they would listen to scientific advice before taking the next steps.
“As government, our responsibility is to look after the living. So, I believe that it is necessary that we do everything in our power to preserve life,” he said. “In relation to our own situation, the spike is going up, it is not going down so we have to take more measures until we reach a stage where there are more recoveries than there are positive cases coming up, then we know we are succeeding, but for now we believe that we have not reached the peak of attack by the pandemic, so this is indicative of measures that shall continue to help us save lives.”
He said they would review the lockdown measures with a view to getting the economy functioning, but this would not be at the expense of human life.
“We as government and I as President decided that on this challenge, what do we do to balance the need for economic growth and the lives of the people? I came to the conclusion that if our people die, we cannot resuscitate them, (but) the economy can die and it can be resuscitated now or in future. It does not matter, as long as people are alive we can always have conferences to say how do we resuscitate the economy but I have never seen a conference where people are discussing how to resuscitate the dead,” Mnangagwa said, speaking at State House where his government received donations from various companies.
“So, our bias is towards the preservation of life and this, why you are here, is demonstrative of your understanding that it is necessary to preserve life. I have been studying events worldwide, how governments are reacting to this thing, some (reactions) border on the line of carelessness, some border on the line of over cautiousness so we must find a way where in my view we err on the side of cautiousness than err on the side of recklessness.”