Panic in Bulawayo after death of infected person announced four days after death.

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BULAWAYO – Zimbabwe has recorded its second coronavirus death in Bulawayo, authorities announced on Tuesday, sparking panic in the second city which has no operational coronavirus care centre.

The ministry of health said the 79-year-old man, a resident of the city, first went to his doctor on March 23 complaining of a sore throat, dry cough and fever. He was given antibiotics and told to go home.

When his condition did not improve, he checked into the Catholic-run Mater Dei Hospital on April 2 and he was admitted – doctors believed he had “bacterial pneumonia with an underlying comorbidity.”

The patient, who had no history of foreign travel but had been to a tourist resort in Hwange from March 14 to 16, was referred to the intensive care unit on the same day of his admission and authorities at the hospital called the health ministry’s rapid response team who collected specimens for testing.

Zimbabwe, which has a creaking health system after years of neglect, only has one coronavirus testing facility in Harare – and samples from outside the capital are sent there by road for a test which should not take more than five hours.

The patient died on Saturday, April 4, but the results were not known until Tuesday – some three days later, and four days after the specimens were collected.

The ministry of health said it had begun a process to trace people who came in contact with the man, the second person out of 11 cases to die since Zimbabwe declared its first coronavirus case on March 20. The first death was on March 23, that of a 30-year-old broadcaster Zororo Makamba who had travelled to New York in the United States.

Like Makamba’s death, caused partly by the lack of a ventilator at the Wilkins Hospital in Harare, the second death in Bulawayo will stoke anger because of the many missed opportunities to test the patient for the novel coronavirus, and the delays in the release of results.

It is feared the patient met more people than he should have – exposing dozens, including nurses and doctors, to the highly contagious virus which was first registered in China at the end of last year.

Only this week, the government admitted that the Wilkins Hospital in Harare, owned by the Harare City Council and recently upgraded by the Chinese government, was the only hospital in the country designated to receive coronavirus patients – but the country’s ruling elite is in the process of converting the Rock Foundation Medical Centre in Harare into a special facility to treat VIPs who contract the virus.

Zimbabwe has tested under 400 people for the coronavirus, which medical experts and the opposition say explains why the country has only confirmed 11 cases. The government denies that that the cases are understated.

The government recently ordered funeral directors to treat all deaths as coronavirus cases, with strict orders for burials to take place within 24 hours – unless if the cause of death is murder or a road traffic accident.

Articles by ZimLive

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