By Thandeka Moyo-Ndlovu
Gatherings have contributed to the Covid-19 upsurge in Bulawayo amid reports that rapid response teams are overwhelmed and unable to swiftly attend to every call.
The country is under a 30-day lockdown but residents still defy regulations and gather for funerals, oblivious of the risk they put on their lives.
Under new lockdown measures, church services have been banned, funeral gatherings have been limited to 30 people, bars and bottle stores shut down, restaurants closed while intercity and interprovincial movement has been limited to those classified as essential service providers.
Members of the public are expected to shop within a 5 kilometre radius from their homes while essential services employees are allowed to pass through checkpoints after producing exemption letters.
Despite the national ban, members of the public still continue to gather for a number of reasons.
Police in Bulawayo have arrested more than 600 people for defying lockdown conditions since the beginning of the year.
The rapid response teams in Bulawayo which are expected to react promptly to suspected cases, assess and assist in stabilising patient, have been struggling to keep up with mounting pressure.
The teams also conduct contact tracing and make follow up visits to affected residents.
Ideally, Bulawayo should have at least 10 teams but only three have been created due to resource constraints.
The city has 661 active Covid-19 cases and recorded one death on Monday bringing the total number of deaths to 151 since the outbreak of the global pandemic.
To date 3 550 Covid-19 cases have been recorded in the province and experts say half of new infections emanate from people with no symptoms.
As of 18 January, Zimbabwe has now recorded 27 892 cases, 17 372 recoveries and 773 deaths.
Bulawayo director of health services Dr Edwin Sibanda said council was struggling to meet demand in the community and called for well wishers to help boost rapid response teams.
He said his office had written to the Ministry of Health and Child Care through the provincial medical director, Dr Welcome Mlilo.
Dr Sibanda said council needed additional nurses, environmental health officers, lab technicians, vehicles and fuel.
He said the public should note the recently ended industrial action had affected the operations of the teams although the major challenge has always been resources.
“Most of our infections and possible contacts are emanating from gatherings which we know are currently banned but residents still meet in the name of comforting the bereaved,” he said. “Let us avoid physical gathering as these are spreading Covid in the city.”
He said in a case where residents cannot access the rapid response teams, they should self-isolate while waiting for help so they do not spread Covid-19 in case they are infected.
“In an ideal setup, a rapid response team should have three people, a nurse, someone qualified to do a test, a lab technician and an environmental health officer. However, due to resource challenges, we have three teams instead of 10 which I think will not be able to cover the whole city,” said Dr Sibanda.
“We have written to the Ministry updating them of our resource challenges so that our teams are able to attend to residents at the shortest possible time. We need vehicles and fuel as well to be able to cope with the increasing calls for help.”
He said there was a shortage of staffers and council was forced to redeploy its nurses from clinics to join the rapid response teams. The Chronicle.