Chronicle Reporters

STRICT measures have been rolled out in hospitals, prisons, courts and other institutions to prevent the spread of Covid-19, in line with the additional restrictions announced by President Mnangagwa yesterday.

The measures came as Zimbabwe recorded its first Covid-19 death after a patient who was admitted to Wilkins Hospital in Harare died yesterday morning.

The victim, Zororo Makamba (30), was the second person to test positive for Covid-19 after travelling to New York in the United States of America on February 29 and returned home on March 9 via Johannesburg. 

The latest measures follow President Mnangagwa’s decision to revise the number of people in a gathering down to 50.

To scale up the country’s preparedness President Mnangagwa last week also launched the Covid-19 National Preparedness and Response Plan and announced the closure of learning institutions today.

Yesterday, a number of institutions announced new measures aimed at stopping the spread of Covid-19.

Central hospitals in the country including Mpilo Central Hospital and United Bulawayo Hospitals (UBH) have reduced the number of hospital visits to only one visitor per patient, per day.

Families are being encouraged to have one primary person visiting a patient throughout their hospital stay.

Mpilo Central Hospital public relations officer Mr Ozias Ndlovu said the Ministry of Health and Child Care had ordered the suspension of morning and evening visits.

He said there will only be afternoon visits which have, however, been reduced to 30 minutes from one hour.

“With effect from tomorrow (today) we will have only one visiting session in the afternoon from 1:15PM to 1:45PM. The public must understand that we are doing this for them and the patients,” he said.

Mr Ndlovu said church visits for patients have been suspended with immediate effect.

Previously, central hospitals had the morning visit from 6AM to 6:30AM, the afternoon visit from 1PM to 2PM and the evening visit from 5PM to 6PM. 

In a telephone interview yesterday, UBH chief executive officer Ms Nonhlanhla Ndlovu said people must exercise the highest levels of hygiene to protect themselves and others.

“We cannot overemphasise the importance of social distancing. This is meant to protect the individual other members of the public. If there is no need for people to be in public spaces, it is better to stay at home. People must be away from home only when it is really necessary. We are also suspending church visits for now as we try to reduce the numbers that come to the hospital,” she said.

“We would like to notify the public that with immediate effect, we will have only one hospital visiting session where we will allow only one person per patient per day as we work towards protecting the patients and the visiting pubic from Covid-19. Such measures are there for the protection of the public and will therefore be in place until further notice.”.

A Chronicle news crew visited Mpilo and UBH yesterday.

At Mpilo, all visitors and staff members entering the hospital wards were made to sanitise their hands when entering and leaving the hospital.

However, there was no sanitiser at the Pediatric Ward entrance and people where seen going in and out without being stopped. 

At UBH, a tent was pitched at the entrance with a team of health personnel screening patients, checking body temperature with an infrared scanner. Visitors were also required to wash their hands at the hospital entrance before proceeding to hospital grounds.

At the courts, Chief Justice Luke Malaba has directed the country’s civil courts to cancel all pre-booked weddings and ordered the postponement of trials and non-urgent hearings by two months, with court hearings now strictly confined to parties involved and their lawyers.

In a statement yesterday, CJ Malaba said as part of social distancing, courts are limiting attendance with all persons accessing court buildings now required to be sanitised and those seeking services should maintain a distance of at least two metres in the queues.

“Following the public notice and pronouncement by His Excellency, President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Covid-19 protection measures, the Chief Justice now directs that trials and non-urgent hearings must be postponed for a period not less than two months except urgent matters, bail applications and initial remands,” said CJ Malaba.

“All weddings are cancelled and parties may approach the courts for rebooking after a period of two months.”

CJ Malaba also suspended hearings in chambers.

“No hearings will be done in chambers. In instances where hearings are held, these should be confined to parties involved in the case and their legal practitioners. Those not involved in the case are discouraged from attending or coming to court,” he said.

“Members of the Judicial Service Commission at courts, legal practitioners and litigants attending court sessions are required to be sanitised at the court entrance when going in and out of the court, maintain a distance of at least two metres from the next person when attending court or registry offices.”

CJ Malaba said all surfaces at courtrooms, reception area and registries among other areas of potential risk should be regularly sanitised and fumigated.

The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) spokesperson Mrs Angeline Munyeriwa said as part of measures to combat the spread of Covid-19, they are now operating with a skeletal staff to minimise social contact among their personnel and suspended workshops.

“As NPA, we have introduced a raft of measures to curb the spread of coronavirus, which include now operating with a skeletal staff to minimise contact as we are trying to maintain the principle of social distancing. 

“Our prosecutors will operate on rotational basis and again, we are urging our staff to avoid public transport and overcrowded places and remain vigilant at all times in light of Covid-19,” she said.

Mrs Munyeriwa said they have also suspended foreign trips and local workshops. She said all students on attachment have with immediate effect be ordered to stop reporting for duty until the situation improves.

The Chronicle news crew yesterday observed that in Bulawayo, courts were limiting the number of people attending court sessions as part of national precautions against coronavirus which causes Covid-19. 

In Bulawayo, NPA said half of its prosecutors will be off this week with six prosecutors rotating on a weekly basis.

Bulawayo has 14 provincial courts and five regional courts at Tredgold Building and Western Commonage managed by more than 30 prosecutors.

The Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services (ZPCS) also suspended prison visits with immediate effect in order to protect inmates from the outbreak of Covid-19. In an interview, ZPCS national public relations officer Superintendent Khanyezi Meya said the suspension applies to all prisons across the country.

 “We have suspended prison visits with immediate effect following Covid-19. We are monitoring the situation and as soon as it normalises, the suspension would be lifted,” he said.

“The decision to suspend the visits was taken with the interest of offenders at heart. It is not a punitive measure but a temporary preventive action meant to ensure that the incarcerated are protected from the pandemic that has affected and killed a number of people worldwide. Friends and relatives should bear with us during this period as we take all steps necessary to protect their loved ones behind bars.” 

In a statement yesterday, Zimbabwe Medical Association (Zima) secretary general Dr Sacrifice Chirisa said all the association’s meeting have been suspended with immediate effect.

Dr Chirisa said Zima will only convene meetings where medical staff will be trained on how to handle coronavirus cases.