Thandeka Moyo-Ndlovu, Health Reporter
ONE of Bulawayo’s Covid-19 designated centres has finally opened its doors to patients as the city continues to be the virus’ hotspot in Zimbabwe, accounting for more than 44 percent of the 620 cases recorded countrywide in the last six days.

The Old Bartley Memorial Block (BMB) within the United Bulawayo Hospitals has admitted 16 Covid-19 patients and will at any given time admit 100 patients referred from hospitals in the Matabeleland region.

It is the first of the three-public designated Covid-19 centres in the city to open its doors to patients as the other two are still under renovations — Thorngrove Infectious Diseases Hospital and Ekusileni Medical Centre.

The BMB’s west wing has been completed but the east wing remains under renovation.

Bulawayo is home to four designated centres; the fourth being the privately-owned Mater Dei Hospital.

UBH acting chief executive officer Dr Narcicious Dzvanga confirmed that as of yesterday, 16 Covid-19 patients were admitted to the BMB west wing which has been completed to cater for the growing number of cases in the city.

By Wednesday, 277 people had died of Covid-19 in Zimbabwe and the national recovery rate which was once at 98 percent for the longest time stood at 84.7 percent.

Since the outbreak of the global pandemic, 10 243 people have been infected and a majority of those emanate from local transmissions.

So far, the country has 1 295 Covid-19 active cases and 565 are from Bulawayo Province followed by Matabeleland South which has 165.

From November 27, 620 new cases have been recorded in Zimbabwe in what experts have described as a second of the wave of Covid-19 likely to affect thousands.

Of the 620 new cases recorded in the last six days, 274 were from Bulawayo Province.

“It is my pleasure to inform you that all the patients afflicted with the Covid-19 have now all moved to the new look BMB west wing. The east wing remains tightly sealed off to allow for completion of the remaining construction works but we are extremely delighted that the unit has eventually become functional albeit partially so,” said Dr Dzvanga.

“All the 16 patients, seven males and nine females, were relocated yesterday and they are all stable. The unit is not yet ready for the official commissioning but we are just trying to keep pace with the second wave which is on the horizon.”

He added that the BMB still does not have facilities for mechanical ventilation as the intensive care unit is not yet open nor equipped.

Social media has been awash with unconfirmed reports of Covid-19 in schools and companies, a development which has caused alarm amongst members of the public.

Medical experts have since raised concern on the alleged concealing of cases especially by companies and schools, thereby further exposing more members of the public to the deadly virus.

In an interview, Mpilo Central Hospital acting chief executive officer Professor Solwayo Ngwenya said the worrying trend of businesspeople and even schools concealing information about Covid-19 cases was a public health disaster.

He urged residents to complement efforts by Government to curb the spread of Covid-19 by speaking up whenever they test positive and for their employers to follow procedure so that lives are saved.

Prof Ngwenya said the increase in numbers in Bulawayo could be a result of reopening of the borders which has seen people returning home from the neighbouring Covid-19 hard-hit South Africa and other countries.

“Bulawayo is closely linked to South Africa and it is a fact that many of our own in the neighbouring countries are bound to travel back home for the festive season. Some are suspected to be smuggling groceries and even dead bodies via our borders and this could be contributing to Bulawayo being a hotspot.

We are aware that some schools and companies are concealing their Covid-19 statuses and they are not aware of the grave danger that comes with such a tendency as we are still in the middle of deadly virus,” said Prof Ngwenya.

He said people who conceal their Covid-19 from colleagues are bound to be super spreaders as most people with the virus are asymptomatic.

Prof Ngwenya said authorities should look into the issue, which if left uncontrolled, may lead to more new cases and deaths.

“A lot of resources are needed to conduct contact tracing hence when numbers increase, the process tends to collapse. It is impossible to quarantine more than 500 infected cases and even if they are sent home to self-isolate, we are not sure if they do not pose a risk to their family members and neighbours.”

Prof Ngwenya added that public institutions were not fully equipped to cater for masses with Covid-19 which should be a constant reminder that people must be on their best behaviour.

“Unfortunately, the situation has gotten out of control. The next phase will be filling our wards with patients while we know we have dwindling PPE resources and no spaces in our hospitals. I doubt that this Christmas will be merry as expected and we all need to accept that we are dealing with a deadly and dangerous global pandemic.” – @thamamoe.