Mukudzei Chingwere Herald Reporter
AS the number of confirmed cases went to 1 034 yesterday, tougher action to stop truck drivers smuggling people across borders and between cities, more community surveillance and more testing in the vicinity of clusters of Covid-19 cases to isolate hotspots are among the measures the Ad Hoc Inter-Ministerial Taskforce on Covid-19 has recommended.

Last night, the Ministry of Health and Child Care announced 49 new infections, 21 of them local within communities and the rest among returnees. Another death, arising from routine testing in a post-mortem, brought the total to 19, with 343 recoveries.

Yesterday’s taskforce meeting comes in the wake of a growing number of people being infected inside Zimbabwe within their communities, rather than having almost all cases among people infected outside and being found during tests in quarantine centres.

Health services are being continually upgraded, with the latest move being the appointment of 13 Zimbabwean doctors and other professionals who have come home.

Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister Monica Mutsvangwa said last night after the meeting that the taskforce studied reports from its subcommittees and discussed the further action needed to contain the spread of the pandemic.

Chief Coordinator of the National Response to the Covid-19 pandemic Dr Agnes Mahomva presented her report, which was guided by the six criteria set by the World Health Organisation (WHO) on understanding the epidemiology of Covid-19.

While the taskforce noted the progress made so far in responding to the threat posed by Covid-19, it recommended a number of actions to strengthen the response and action plan, which include the mapping and testing of areas around clusters of cases, a need to increase community surveillance, the erection of temporary structures at ports of entry to house the rising number of returnees into the country, and the strengthening of cross border security checks.

Minister Mutsvangwa said the taskforce resolved to build on the progress already achieved and cautioned citizens against suffering from “lockdown fatigue” at a time when cases are racing towards the 1 000 mark.

“Our vigilance should be the same level as it was on Day 1. Let us not run out of steam,” said Minister Mutsvangwa.

She said as new information surrounding the Covid-19 pandemic was coming out, the Government was adjusting its response and action plans to ensure Zimbabwe takes the correct preventative and protective precautions to combat the virus.

“In light of the increased positive cases that are being recorded, efforts are being channelled to resource medical facilities that will deal with Covid-19 cases. As such, 13 foreign trained Zimbabwean doctors and members have been appointed and they are to assume duty starting from today, July 13 2020,” said Minister Mutsvangwa.

The logistics subcommittee reported that enforcement had been intensified to penalise truck drivers and unauthorised passengers who are failing to adhere to regulations regulating restricted goods and cross border vehicles transiting through Zimbabwe.

Minister Mutsvangwa said Covid-19 was real and it was critical to ensure no one engaged in actions that put the nation at “a greater risk of infection”.

“The use of cross-border vehicles as a means of transportation is taking the nation back in its fight against the pandemic,” she said.

The minister said as the infection numbers are rising, together with the death rate, health facilities would be stretched and the nation cannot afford the complacency being witnessed.

She said WHO health experts were cautioning nations on the threat posed by local transmissions in the fight against Covid-19, adding that while Government can tell citizens to wear masks, wash and sanitise their hands, travel when it is absolutely necessary and maintain social distancing, it was up to every Zimbabwean to practise the preventive measures.

Minister Mutsvangwa rallied the nation to adapt to the new normal, which will minimise risk of being infected, in line with President Mnangagwa’s call that the economy can be resurrected, but not the dead.

Meanwhile, the repatriation of Zimbabweans from across the world continues, with 11 889 returnees having been processed through quarantine facilities.

The taskforce was informed that an Air Zimbabwe flight expected to repatriate Zimbabweans from Guangzhou and Wuhan Provinces in China, developed a technical problem recently and is stuck in Bangkok. The replacement engine was airlifted to Thailand yesterday.

The food and water sustainability subcommittee updated the taskforce on the children and adults living and working on the streets who have been placed in halfway homes and rehabilitation centres since the start of the lockdown in March 2020.

In Harare Province, 29 adults are being housed, of which seven are yet to be reunited with their families while in the Midlands Province, 13 adults are being housed and their families are being traced. In Manicaland Province, six children are being housed as their families are also being traced.

Dr Mahomva said in tandem with six criterion set by WHO, it was important to ensure the disease transmission is under control, to manage the risk of importing new cases, and for the health system look at suspected cases, detect, test, identify, isolate and then treat them.

Further, hotspots need to be contained while preventative measures are put in place at workplaces and schools, while communities are fully empowered, and educated to be able to change their behaviours to embrace preventative social measures recommended.

Dr Mahomva said that the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education was working closely with the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare to ensure that schools would re-open safely near the end of the month as planned.