AT least 14 people have died from Covid-19 on admission to health institutions across the country in the last six days with the Government making it mandatory for all corpses to be tested for the virus.
According to the Friday Covid-19 update from the Ministry of Health and Child Care, 14 deaths have been recorded where 11 were males and three females.
"Today we report the results of 14 deaths which occurred from 26-31 July 2020 in the community and on admission to casualty departments at Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals after investigations and post-mortems were done. These include 11 males and three females from Harare, Mashonaland West, Manicaland and Bulawayo provinces and had respiratory symptoms compatible with Covid-19 and Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) tests came out positive for Covid-19," read the report.
However, the Ministry of Health has made it mandatory that corpses being handled at health institutions be tested for the virus.
There has been a rise in the number of people who are confirmed positive to Covid-19 upon their deaths in the country's major cities.
Dynamics have, however, been different in rural set ups where when a person dies of what locals deem to be from natural causes, the deceased are quickly buried without a post-mortem, as the family can ask for a waiver of the post-mortem. However, Covid-19 seems to have altered the practice with acting Provincial Medical Director for Matabeland North Province Dr Munekai Padingani saying every death was now being treated as a potential case for Covid-19 that needed to be tested.
"If there is death in the community, we have instructed community members to call the police and a Rapid Response Team (RRT) is also dispatched to collect the specimen. The communities and traditional leaders are being sensitised that with any sudden death or just any death at home they must first make a report so that specimens are collected before the person is buried," he said.Dr Padingani, however, said there was a chance that some people were being buried without the hospital or RRT's knowledge in rural communities as some people could be conducting burials without much information reaching health institutions or the police.
"We cannot say it is happening 100 percent because some people don't report to these teams and we will not know that someone died from Covid-19 possibly. In Matabeleland North we have two deaths, one from Hwange and the other from Binga. As for the case in Binga where one person died at home, we collected the specimen and that is when we knew that it was a Covid-19 death. The family members of the deceased in Binga were all tested using Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) diagnostics and they were all negative.
"We wonder where she contracted the virus because she came from very far away in Binga so we were asking ourselves questions as to how she contracted Covid-19 if no one from her family had it. So, we just assumed that maybe she was visited by someone who was positive. That is the only assumption we got as all contacts were negative," he said.
The Ministry of Health and Child Care has intensified educating traditional leaders in rural communities to assist in curbing the spread of the virus as there were several reports of families housing escapees from quarantine centres in villages and in turn spreading the virus among themselves. Most of the escapees were returnees from South Africa and Botswana who are originally from Matabeleland North and South provinces.
As of Friday, the Ministry of Health reported that 77 cases tested positive for Covid-19. These include 67 local cases and 10 returnees; seven from South Africa and three from Botswana who are isolated. At least 135 Rapid Diagnostic Test (RDT) screening tests and 1001 PCR diagnostic tests were done on Friday. Cumulatively the number of tests that have been done to date is 131 035 (70 903 RDT and 60 132 PCR).
Meanwhile, United Refineries Limited (URL) in Bulawayo has closed shop after a member of staff tested positive for Covid-19. In a statement, the company's management said there was one confirmed Covid-19 case.
"We would like to inform the public that with immediate effect, we are shutting down a few sections of the company and inviting Bulawayo City Council to deep clean our entire factory according to World Health Organisation and Ministry of Health regulations. This measure comes after one of our colleagues tested positive for Covid-19 and another colleague came into contact with a family member who is Covid-19 positive. We will be assisting them with getting tested and any other necessary measures," read the statement.
The management of URL said they have started taking steps to ensure that those who came into contact with both workers were tested and quarantined for the stipulated time frame. In Harare, a number of businesses including banks and retail stores were forced to close shop last week after some staff members tested positive to coronavirus.