ZIMBABWE yesterday recorded its first case of coronavirus, a 38-year-old man who had travelled to Manchester in the United Kingdom, while officials said they were also monitoring two more possible cases.

BY ALFONCE MBIZWO/GARIKAI TUNHIRA/DESMOND CHINGARANDE

Authorities were also following up on the possible contacts of a traveller from Germany who spent nine days in the country and was tested positive on arrival in Namibia.

“The National Microbiology Reference Laboratory at the Sally Mugabe Central Hospital (formerly Harare Central Hospital) had confirmed that a suspected case of Covid-19 had tested positive,” Health and Child Care minister Obadiah Moyo said on the public broadcaster, ZTV.

“The patient is a 38-year-old Caucasian male resident in Victoria Falls, who had travelled to Manchester, the United Kingdom, on March 7, 2020 and returned to his home in Victoria Falls on March 15, 2020 via South Africa.

On arrival, he put himself on self-quarantine at home as per our advice to all travellers coming from Covid-19 affected countries.”

A confirmed case will likely have a huge impact on the local tourism and travel industry, and hit hard the economy which was already in depression because of Harare’s worst economic crisis in a decade.

Zimbabwe becomes the 34th country on the continent affected by the fast spreading virus while cases in neighbouring South Africa spiked to 202 yesterday morning and Zambia recorded its first cases earlier this week.

In a statement, the Health ministry also said a 25-year-old woman who travelled to Rwanda was on Thursday admitted at Wilkins Infectious Disease Hospital on suspicion of having Covid-19.

“She had travelled to Rwanda on March 8 and returned on March 15,” the ministry said.

Authorities are also waiting for results of tests for a Malawi national who was quarantined at the Beitbridge District Hospital on Wednesday after tests showed that his temperature was high while on his way to Malawi from Northern Cape.

As of last night, Africa had 911 cases from 38 countries, according to the Africa Centre for Disease Control and Prevention.

Critics say Zimbabwe’s relaxed approach to applying restrictive measures contrasts sharply with South Africa, whose largest and busiest airport OR Tambo International in Johannesburg yesterday closed its doors to foreign nationals from high-risk countries.

South Africa acted after the number of infections spiked to 202 by yesterday morning, with Gauteng province fast becoming the epicentre.

“Foreign nationals from high-risk countries will not be allowed to disembark the aircraft. Inbound crew will be screened and quarantined,” it said in a statement after coronavirus cases in the country jumped to 202, the most in the sub-Saharan region.

“South African citizens returning from high-risk countries will be clinically assessed and immediately quarantined.”

Yesterday, South African Airways suspended flights to its regional destinations, including Harare and Victoria Falls as a result of the significant reduction in demand for air travel as countries shut out foreigners and travellers from affected countries.

Botswana has also banned all arrivals from the high-risk countries such as China, Japan, South Korea, Iran, the United States, the United Kingdom, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and India.

Eswatini (formerly Swaziland) yesterday revoked visas from travellers from high-risk countries that were issued earlier, while Mozambique and Zambia have mandatory quarantine for such travellers.

Globally, as of last night, there were 247 400 cases of the virus, 10 067 deaths with 86 037 recoveries.

Meanwhile, a Chinese milling company based in Glendale has forced its workers to stay at the mine for three days, allegedly to stop a possible outbreak and spread of the virus.

NewsDay Weekender was told some workers were temporarily suspended from work for two months after they went out of the mine yard.

The company general manager, only identified as Neymar or “Bigger Boss”, said they met with their workers who “volunteered” to stay at the mine in a bid to avoid mixing with different people who might be contaminated with the coronavirus.

“We put this preparatory measure as a way of minimising the spread of the pandemic. Our workers volunteered. As you have heard, in South Africa, the disease is already wreaking havoc, so we do not want these workers to bring the virus here,” he said.

Quizzed on why the company suspended some of its workers, Neymar said they would come back when the management decides on their fate.

“The management will decide on that matter, but we did not fire them as alleged. They are on suspension. Even the President of this country called for the closure of colleges and schools, so our case is not a special one,” he responded.

Workers, who spoke to this publication, however, complained.

“We are being abused by these Chinese. How can they put us in curfew yet the disease is from their country not ours? For the past three days, we are being forced to sleep in a workshop and we are overcrowded,” one worker who declined to be named said.

— Additional reporting by Simba Sithole