By NQOBANI NDLOVU

BULAWAYO mayor Solomon Mguni has said the city’s disease surveillance team has no capacity to host national and international events such as the annual Zimbabwe International Trade Fair (ZITF) showcase, and Independence Day celebrations following the outbreak of the deadly coronavirus.

Over 4 000 people have died and another 100 000 infected by the virus globally, according to the World Health Organisation, which has also described the killer virus a global health emergency.

Nine African countries, including neighbouring South Africa, have recorded cases, triggering fears that Zimbabwe, with porous borders and a very weak health delivery system, could also fall victim.

Mguni told Southern Eye yesterday that hosting public events such as the ZITF presented problems for the city, worse with the world struggling to contain the virus.

“We are prepared, but with public events such as the ZITF, we could have problems if our surveillance team is not prepared. As in previous years, indications are that many people will be coming from as far as the United Kingdom, but as for the council, it is a scare. I don’t think we have the capacity to handle a coronavirus outbreak,” he said.

Zimbabwe Nurses Association provincial chairperson Nicholas Chidora on Monday also doubted the city’s capacity to deal with any coronavirus outbreak during a nurses’ demonstration at Mpilo Central Hospital.

“The hospital (Mpilo) is not adequately prepared for any emergencies, including coronavirus itself. As nurses, we have not undergone training to equip us with adequate knowledge about the virus and how to deal with it,” he said.

However, ZITF marketing and corporate communications manager Doreen Zamatira declined to comment, saying the subject was a national issue which could only be addressed by government.

Minister of State for Bulawayo Metropolitan province, Judith Ncube urged Zimbabweans to reduce foreign travel to minimise chances of importing the virus into the country, and with the ZITF bringing in international guests, fears that the business extravaganza could expose the country have increased.

Sadc has since suspended public events in the bloc, with Sadc secretariat member Mapolao Mokoena describing it as a “responsible precautionary measure to prevent the risk of exposure to contracting and spreading of the deadly virus”.

Health and Child Care minister Obadiah Moyo on Sunday was, however, quoted by State media saying the outbreak of the disease in other parts of the world would not affect the hosting of the ZITF.

Recently, Cabinet approved the deportation of visitors from affected countries if they do not produce medical certificates at the points of entry showing that they tested negative of the virus.

At the Beitbridge Border Post, travellers are now required to undergo mandatory tests for the virus before being issued with a clearance certificate to allow them to enter the country.
Bulawayo is also set to host this year’s Independence Day celebrations for the first time since independence.