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Workplaces hotspots for Covid-19

Professor Solwayo Ngwenya

Nqobile Tshili/Andile Tshuma
THE workplace has come under the spotlight after a number of Covid-19 cases have been contracted in offices, leading to temporary closure.

Last Thursday, 21 Cimas Medical Aid Society employees in Harare tested positive for Covid-19.

The Covid-19 patients shared transport, work stations, computers and telephone handsets.

Recently, some health workers at Mpilo Central Hospital and United Bulawayo Hospitals tested positive for Covid-19 while Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) Bulawayo offices were temporarily closed after one of its senior staffers succumbed to Covid-19.

Mpilo Central Hospital acting chief executive officer Professor Solwayo Ngwenya, said employees share a lot of materials making workplaces Covid-19 high-risk zones.

“Because the virus is extremely infectious, if you get one person in a workplace, they can infect everyone. So, the threat is very high because in the workplace people tend to share common rooms and tea room, the virus can stay on utensils and hard surfaces for a long time up to nine days. So, we can say workplaces are high risks,” said Prof Ngwenya.

“This virus is very difficult to manage, the only way is to put a distance from one person to the other. And the distance should be at least two metres and this is not possible in most workplaces that people be two metres apart. If you are close and one person gets it, you are going to get it even if you are disinfecting the premises.”

Prof Ngwenya called for stringent lockdown measures.

“What I can tell you is that this is the reason why I have been squealing and making noise for four months because I know the huge impact of Covid-19. It’s a big blow to humanity. The ventilators we have are inadequate for our usual setting. They are not adequate for the usual settings, now imagine, we have this huge storm,” said Prof Ngwenya,

“We never had enough ventilators before and the answer I’m trying to tell you is that we will be unable to do anything and people are just going to die, die, die. Basically, if you are going to complicate from Covid-19, you are 100 percent going to die.”

Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Minister Professor Paul Mavima said when Government reopened the economy it laid down regulations to minimise the Covid-19 infection rate at workplaces.

He said his ministry has deployed inspectors to randomly inspect compliance in companies and is largely satisfied with the level of compliance.

Prof Mavima said workers should also follow Covid-19 regulations outside the workplace so that they do not bring the virus at work.

“However, you ought to realise that once the workers have left the workplace they are also going home and to their communities. The precaution should not stop at work. People should be conscientised that when they are in the community, they also observe the same protocols. They should not go to places where they do not sanitise, do not go in places where people do not get screened as they go in, don’t go to places where people are not observing proper wearing of masks, and don’t go into a place where social distancing is not adhered to,“ said Prof Mavima.

Meanwhile, health experts have warned the public to be wary of lockdown fatigue.

Zimbabwe Medical Association (ZIMA) President Dr Francis Chiwora said many Zimbabweans were at risk as they are no longer bothered to practise social distancing and stay at home. “While the Government relaxed some Covid-19 regulations, it is not expected for people to go back to their normal ways. But you find people spending afternoons at shopping centres and drinking publicly from cars. Most people will get the virus from such social circles. It helps no one to fear getting into a bank queue where there is no social distancing, but to spend the day drinking in the open with friends, when you do not even know where they have been. But unfortunately, it’s happening, people are fatigued. We need a heavier lockdown,” said Dr Chiwora.

Acting Bulawayo provincial medical director Dr Welcome Mlilo said lockdown fatigue in the city was contributing to the high number of infections being recorded.