Bulawayo, Zimbabwe’s second-largest city, now has the highest number of Coronavirus cases, the latest Ministry of Health and Child Care statistics show.
The city recorded five new cases yesterday taking its total to 10 including one fatality.
According to the health ministry, the National TB Reference Laboratory at Mpilo Central Hospital in Bulawayo tested 23 samples, Wednesday and five of the samples tested positive for COVID-19 “due to local transmission.”
From the five new cases, four are family members to Case 16 and one came into contact with Case 15.
All of the nine patients in Bulawayo are under self-isolation at their homes and city health officials said “security services would assist with enforcement.”
Nationally, Zimbabwe now has 23 confirmed cases including three deaths and one recovery.
In an interview with CITE, the city’s Assistant Director of Health Services, Dr Khulamuzi Nyathi, confirmed the five new cases in Bulawayo were from local transmission.
“Four of the new cases in Bulawayo are family members of Case 16 as they stay together,” he said.
“Case 16 is the one who had contact with the deceased Case 11. The other new fifth case contracted the virus from Case 15 and we are trying to establish how they contacted each other.”
Case 16 is a 52-year-old nurse aid from Mater Dei who tended to the deceased Case 11 without any personal protective equipment.
Case 11 is the late Ian Hyslop, who contracted COVID-19 from a UK visitor
Case 15 is a 34-year-old health worker, a physiotherapist at a local hospital and according to health officials could have transmitted the virus to a colleague.
Both Case 15 and Case 16, were advised to be under self-isolation at home.
However, published reports alleged that Case 15 was spotted at Bradfield Shopping Centre by residents.
The local rapid response team who undertake daily surveillance on cases did not find her at home.
A leaked police memo revealed that Case 16 had been to Hillside Police Station, where there are reports that some police officers are now sick.
However, Dr Nyathi said the City Health Department did not entertain rumours.
Dr Nyathi said “of course we have to investigate suspected cases but sometimes issues that circulate on WhatsApp are challenging. As a city, we investigate cases of sick people and we have not heard of police who are sick. Perhaps the police themselves have better information.”
The assistant director said the city health department would have to take aggressive measures and urged residents to adhere to the lockdown regulations, practice social distancing – if advised to self-isolate they should do so.
“Now if he have known COVID-9 case, perhaps we have to work with security services give them addresses to make sure those cases don’t leave the house,” Dr Nyathi emphasised.
He said the four new cases linked to Case 16 were strictly advised to self-isolate at home.
“They are in a stable condition hence we told them to stay at home, wash their hands, social distance and wash their hands,” he said.
Asked how the family would survive since they had to look for food, Dr Nyathi stressed “when we say self-isolate we mean that.”
“We can’t use emotions here. They have to stay at home. People also have to practice social distancing. Imagine if the contacts go out of the house, what will happen? As long as they don’t go out, stay in the house they will not infect other people but if you go out, there are chances of infecting others,” he noted.
Dr Nyathi said they could engage other partners to assist the family during their self-isolation.
“Our job is to treat people but we can talk to the police to say this family needs assistance, they need food, we can talk to the Provincial Administrator and to the Social Welfare that this is the situation, as the family needs assistance,” said the health official.
Dr Nyathi’s comments come as the city is starting to record a rise in infections, which is believed will continue to rise as testing increases.