Harare(New Ziana)-Health and Child Care Minister Dr Obadiah Moyo on Monday discouraged unnecessary travel to China, the epicentre of the unfolding coronavirus outbreak to prevent it from spreading into Zimbabwe.
Chinese health authorities announced Monday that 2 744 confirmed cases of pneumonia caused by the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV), including 461 in critical condition, had been reported in the country by Sunday.
According to the National Health Commission (NHC), 81 deaths from the infection were reported as of Monday.
Speaking to journalists after inspecting port health screening facilities at Robert Mugabe International Airport, Dr Moyo said the Chinese embassy was also discouraging its nationals from travelling to Zimbabwe.
“We have to delay travel to the areas which are affected with the virus. We are very happy that we have been communicating with the Chinese embassy and they have also advised us that they have also put a delay in travel; cancelling of unnecessary travel to Zimbabwe,” he said.
“So far the flights which have been cancelled or people who have been stopped from coming to Zimbabwe are the ones who are of Chinese origin. Those of Zimbabwean origin are still coming through. We are strongly recommending Zimbabweans not to unnecessarily travel to the affected area. If the Chinese have reciprocated by not travelling to Zimbabwe, it’s only fair in the efforts of trying to control the spread of coronavirus by also having Zimbabweans not unnecessarily travel to China,” he said.
Dr Moyo said his Ministry was closely monitoring Zimbabweans who had been in China who returned home in recent times.
“However there are Zimbabweans who are living in China, or who ply from Harare to Beijing in search of business, we have had one or two cases, and we are currently monitoring them on their arrival,” he said.
On preparedness to tackle the virus, Dr Moyo said with available equipment and resources, Zimbabwe was able to screen travelers for coronavirus.
“The infection is not currently in Zimbabwe, so our surveillance systems have been activated countrywide but with special focus on the main ports of entry and exit.
“We could do with more equipment so we might have to look for additional equipment but not only for this airport but also for Victoria Falls where we are getting a lot of tourists coming in.
“Two major infectious diseases hospitals and central hospital infection control, casualty and other key personnel to be trained on clinical management should any cases occur,” he said.
Dr Moyo said those found with symptoms of the virus, would be monitored for a couple of days.
“The monitoring process is every three days after the candidate has been scanned through our system and found to be from that particular region that has got high infection rate, we are having to follow them. If they end up with symptoms then we make sure that the relevant protocols are applied,” he said.
China has since extended the Spring Festival holiday and postponed school openings, while transport restrictions have been adopted in various areas to further contain the coronavirus epidemic.
According to the World Health Organisation, in confirmed cases of illness in humans, common symptoms of coronavirus have been acute, serious respiratory illness with fever, cough, shortness of breath, and breathing difficulties.
Based on current clinical experience, the infection generally presents as pneumonia.