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– NewsDay

HEALTH officials and police have scaled up surveillance to curb the further spread of COVID-19 infections following a spike in hospital admissions while isolation centres are said to be fast filling up.

Since last week, the country has been recording an average of 110 infections a day.

Due to the continued rise in coronavirus cases, government at the weekend announced new lockdown regulations and placed Kadoma, Kwekwe, Hurungwe and Kariba on localised lockdowns, while other parts of the country were put under strict surveillance.

It is anticipated that more cases will require medical attention and hospitalisation as the country gears up to deal with the third wave of the pandemic and the Indian and South African variants, which have already been recorded in some parts of the country.

The threat of the third wave of the respiratory pandemic comes at a time when most health institutions are operating with skeletal staff following a mass exodus of health professionals.

One of the country’s largest referral hospitals, Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals, was last week battling a sharp rise in COVID-19-related admissions.

Hospital spokesperson Linos Dhire confirmed that the health institution was recording an increased number of COVID-19-related admissions each day.

“We confirm that we are having an increase in the number of COVID-19 patients who require admission,” Dhire said.

The surge in hospital admissions at Parirenyatwa has been happening at a time when the biggest referral centre has been experiencing intermittent power cuts.

Mpilo Central Hospital acting chief executive officer Solwayo Ngwenya

said the new highly transmissible Indian variant, coupled with extreme complacency within communities, had pushed the infection figures up.

“The COVID-19 centres appear to be filling up throughout the country. The situation is spiralling out of control,” he said.

Ngwenya said many cases were going unreported due to reduced testing capacities.

“Figures could actually be higher because infections are going on in the communities. We are way behind the virus. No country can ever be prepared enough for this elusive disease. The institutions will simply be overwhelmed,” he said.

In Masvingo, government has turned the Reformed Church in Zimbabwe-run Morgenster Teachers College into a COVID-19 quarantine centre and sealed off the training institution following a spike in infections from 41 on Saturday to 63 on Sunday in the province.

While yesterday’s results had not been published at the time of going to print, Masvingo provincial COVID-19 taskforce spokesperson Rogers Irimayi said the figures could have increased.

“The institution (Morgenster) has been turned into a quarantine centre following the spike in cases. Nobody is allowed to get inside or go outside. On Saturday, we recorded 40 cases and on Sunday, another 23 tested positive for the virus. Lectures have been suspended and testing is going on,” Irimayi said.

He said most of the infected people were asymptomatic, adding that they were localised infections.

The Morgenster COVID-19 outbreak comes soon after another outbreak at the Roman Catholic-run teacher training institution, Bondolfi, where 94 cases were recorded late last month.

All the infected have since recovered and allowed to go back home.

Situational reports released by the Health ministry show that there is an increase in admission of COVID-19 patients which range from 80 to nearly 100 per day in the country.

Last year during the peak of the pandemic, most COVID-19 patients found themselves unable to secure a bed at both private and government hospitals.

With history fast repeating itself, health stakeholders are calling on government to urgently allocate additional resources towards the Health ministry in order to build a strong health system that is able to withstand current and future shocks.

Police yesterday warned that they would now strictly enforce the recently announced COVID-19 regulations without “fear or favour” to curb the spread of the pandemic.

“The public should take note that the police will ensure that all gatherings, except funerals, are banned and compliance is strictly adhered to. Mourners are implored to stick to the stipulated figure of 30 people and observe all  COVID-19 protocols,” national police spokesperson Assistant  Commissioner Paul Nyathi said in a statement.

“Patrols, blitz and monitoring will be done by police to ensure that beerhalls, bars and nightclubs remain closed. Bottle store owners should strictly observe the given operational time of 1000hrs to 1600hrs.”

On Saturday, Vice-President and Health minister Constantino Chiwenga announced new lockdown measures following the continued surge in infections in the past week.

Health experts said more people were being admitted after exhibiting mild to severe symptoms.

They also warned that mild to severe cases actually surpass the asymptomatic (exhibiting no symptoms) cases, which could result in many patients requiring prolonged care at health facilities that do not have the capacity to handle huge numbers.

Community Working Group on Health executive director Itai Rusike said as the COVID-19 infections continued to surge, hospital beds would very soon be filled up, adding that the country might experience an acute shortage of oxygen, leaving patients stranded.

“The current wave is hitting the country hard and spreading quickly. As the number of infections rise, the severity of the current wave is becoming apparent.

“Finance minister Mthuli Ncube should use the budget surplus to capacitate the health sector and address the human resources challenges,”

Rusike said.

“The 2% tax on mobile money transactions and the health levy should be earmarked for vaccine purchases to ensure continued supply of vaccines in the country.”

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