First ripples of the approaching storm? Bulawayo and Rural Matabeleland COVID updates: 23 March to 3 April

1. Background: Arrival of Covid-19

Zimbabwe officially announced its first case of the corona virus (COVID-19) on the 20 March 2020. This was a 38-year-old man from Victoria Falls, who had travelled to the United Kingdom on the 7 March 2020 and returned via South Africa on 15 March. The disease first broke out in the city of Wuhan, Hubei province in China in December 2019 but has since spread to at least 164 countries. The outbreak was declared to be a Public Health Emergency of International Concern on the 30 January 2020 by the World Health Organization and given pandemic status on 11 March 2020.

On 23 March, news outlets recorded Zimbabwe’s first Coronavirus death, that of Zororo Makamba, who died in Harare. This was later confirmed by the state. He had returned some days earlier from New York City. The family released a timeline of his illness and death, which exposed dramatic shortfalls in the health management system at Wilkins Hospital, one of only two infectious diseases isolation hospitals in Zimbabwe. The hospital at that time had no ventilator, no wall plug to plug in a ventilator the family tracked down, no steady supply of oxygen. The narrative of this death shocked and mobilised many in Zimbabwe. By the end of March, reports were that conditions had materially improved at Wilkins, largely through donations of a solar system and ventilators. There are reports that there have been other donations of relevant supplies, from China and business people, but it is not clear where and when and on what basis these donations will be distributed around the health services in the country.

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Source: Ukuthula Trust

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