Zimbabwe on Friday reported its first coronavirus case, a man who returned to his home in the tourist resort town of Victoria Falls from Britain at the weekend.
“This is the first case of Covid-19 in Zimbabwe,” said Health Minister Obadiah Moyo on state television ZTV.
“The patient is a 38-year-old Caucasian man … who had travelled to Manchester in the UK on the 7th of March and returned to his home in Victoria Falls on the 15th of March via South Africa,” he said.
The Zimbabwean government on Tuesday announced a raft of steps to prevent the virus from spreading – including the cancellation of public and sporting events, and constraints on gatherings. Schools will close on Tuesday.
The country’s public health system, meanwhile, has been suffering for years from a lack of equipment and drugs.
It came under further strain last year when hundreds of junior doctors at state hospitals staged a three-month strike over conditions and pay – which then was less than $200 a month.
Zimbabwe days ago declared a national disaster. Public hospitals even before the pandemic lacked basic items such as gloves, and relatives of patients at times are expected to even provide buckets of water. Doctors at public hospitals recently went on strike for months, saying their pay of roughly $100 a month was not enough to get by in a country with inflation at over 500%.
Meanwhile, the elite routinely seeks treatment abroad. Vice President Constantino Chiwenga this week flew to China for medical treatment unrelated to the coronavirus.
Zimbabwe’s government has said it is “well prepared” to deal with COVID-19 cases.