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500 more staff to boost health sector

Minister Mutsvangwa

By Staff Reporter

An additional 500 health workers are to be recruited to upgrade Zimbabwe’s capacity to cope with Covid-19, Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister Monica Mutsvangwa said yesterday.

After the meeting of the Inter-Ministerial Taskforce on Covid-19 at State House yesterday, she said the recruitment of the 500 follows the unfreezing of 4 000 health sector posts by Government in March and the creation of 200 other posts as part of measures to fight the pandemic.

“The taskforce was informed that Treasury had concurred to the recruitment of an additional 500 health workers including doctors, nurses, and technicians for intensive care units, high dependency units and isolation centres across the country.

“This recruitment will go a long way in boosting our health services’ capacity to respond to and treat Covid-19 cases,” she said.

The minister was speaking as the Ministry of Health and Child Care reported seven more confirmed cases, three among returnees and four local, although three of those were contacts of a known case and health workers are tracking down the source of the fourth.

This takes the total of confirmed cases to 574, most in quarantine centres.

With more testing of those who were sick and got better the number of confirmed recoveries has risen to 152.

South Africa, still the regional epicentre, now has 138 134 cases, 2 456 deaths but showing the falling rate of infection now has 68 925 confirmed recoveries, almost half those infected.

Minister Mutsvangwa said Government had identified three facilities to house health frontline workers as a way of protecting their families from possible infections.

The three centres are Monomotapa Crowne Plaza Hotel in Harare, Marondera Hotel and Khayela Guest Lodge in Gweru. Government would meet the costs of the workers’ stay.

The minister also reassured the nation that Government would not ignore other health challenges facing the nation.

“It is in this context that the taskforce noted with sadness typhoid and dysentery in some Bulawayo suburbs,” she said.

“So far, Bulawayo has reported five community and seven hospital deaths. Government has therefore embarked on an intensive bulk water trucking programme to affected communities. Water samples from these areas are also undergoing analysis.”

Minister Mutsvangwa said there were 1 770 returnees housed in quarantine facilities across the country, with the highest number in Harare.

She also said people who are infected with Covid-19 and were unable to self-isolate at home were being isolated at centres reserved for people seeking treatment while the taskforce had recommended that all positive cases at private and public quarantine facilities be moved to specific isolation centres in order to prevent the further spread of Covid-19.

On the re-opening of schools, universities and colleges, the minister said the taskforce had received reports from the Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education, Innovation, Science and Technology Development and from the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education on plans and standard operating procedures for the prevention and management of Covid-19 at learning institutions.

Minister Mutsvangwa said the tertiary institutions were required to have one, or at most two, entrances where all students and staff entering and exiting go through screening.

The institution will also be required to ensure that students and employees are educated on the symptoms and the measures to take if Covid-19 symptoms manifest.

Depending on student volumes, timetables may have to be adjusted to ensure an even wider spread of students while students and employees will be encouraged to go home as soon as their classes or work is completed for the day.

Minister Mutsvangwa said sporting activities were banned at schools and universities while buildings would be disinfected prior to re-opening.

If any employee or student shows symptoms of Covid-19 while on campus, a report shall immediately be made to the institution’s health department for appropriate medical assistance.

For the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education, the policy of “stay at home if unwell” for learners, teachers, and school staff with symptoms would be enforced while the school would be required to establish a temporary isolation holding bay.

Apart from the major disinfection of all school buildings and grounds before the re-opening of schools, schools should be cleaned and disinfected frequently on touched surfaces such as door handles, desks, toys, teaching aids, and play equipment.

“The taskforce noted that strict compliance with these standard operating procedures is required by all and failure to observe these guidelines would compromise the health and safety of all.

“This would be in breach of the Public Health Act and relevant Covid-19 prevention and control measures. Heads of office at national, provincial, district and school level authorities have the responsibility to ensure and enforce compliance,” she said.

Meanwhile, Minister Mutsvangwa said today was the deadline for applicants to lodge their applications for licences for television stations and services in line with Government policy to reform the media through legislative reforms, media cultural reform and registering new players in television.

She also reiterated that the Zimbabwe dollar, including bond notes and coins, remained legal tender in the country.