Patrick Chitumba, Midlands Bureau Chief
A total of 18 people who returned from South Africa and Botswana escaped from Mkoba Teacher’s College quarantine centre in Gweru on Monday, a development that may result in the spread of Covid-19.
Those who escaped are said to be from Mkoba suburb in Gweru, Zhombe and Gokwe and were part of over 300 people quarantined at Mkoba Teachers College.
Giving an overview of the state of affairs in quarantine centres in the Midlands province during the provincial Covid-19 taskforce weekly update meeting held in Gweru on Tuesday afternoon, Mr George Madzima, the Midlands provincial social welfare officer said after a roll call, it was discovered that 18 people were missing from the quarantine centre.
He said there are three quarantine centres in the Midlands province: Gweru Polytechnic College and Mkoba Teachers College in Gweru and one in Kwekwe at Kwekwe High School.
“We have 72 returning residents at Kwekwe High School which has a holding capacity of 100. We are afraid, if we get a bus full with many returning residents, Kwekwe High School will be full,” said Mr Madzima.
“Gweru Polytechnic College has 112 including four minors. At Mkoba Teachers College, 25 people were discharged after testing Covid-19 negative and 18 absconded from the college. 15 are males and three are females and are from Mberengwa, Zhombe, Gweru and one of them is an ex-convict. So, at the moment we have 284 returning residents at Mkoba Teachers College.”
He said delays in testing quarantined people as well as getting PCR results may have contributed to people deciding to escape.
“Delays in testing and results coming late hinder smooth operations of quarantine centres. We don’t want to keep these people, they are adults and the more time we hold them the more they will start thinking of absconding,” said Mr Madzima.
He said they were expecting money for bus fare for cleared cases from Harare.
Mr Madzima said there was urgent need to identify new quarantine centres which are not schools or universities considering that these will be reopened soon.
“We should identify other quarantine centres which are not schools or universities because they are opening soon. So we have identified Cheziya training centre in Gokwe South, Chikwingwizha training centre in Shurugwi and Dadaya training centre in Zvishavane and district teams are making assessments,” he said.
The Officer commanding police in Midlands Province, Commissioner Moses Magandi, said it was not possible that such a huge number of people could have escaped from the centre which is under police protection.
“In the morning, I got a briefing and wasn’t told of people who absconded. There must be a mistake. So there is a need for us to visit the quarantine centre to see if this is a correct position,” he said.
Midlands Provincial Affairs Minister Larry Mavima said there is urgent need to find out what is happening at the quarantine centre.
He also reiterated that there is need to identify places or centres that can accommodate many people and which are secure.
“There is need to look into this matter and in future when there are such reports, my office should be alerted as soon as possible and not for you to wait until we have such a meeting. There is also need to look at other issues that should be considered when accommodating these returning residents,” said Minister Mavima who is also the chairperson of the provincial Covid-19 taskforce committee.
Midlands Provincial Development Co-ordinator, Mr Abiot Maronge said there is need to put people in smaller groups at quarantine centres so that they are manageable.
He said it is difficult for staff to handle over 300 people from different backgrounds, hence the need to have manageable numbers.
“Quarantine centres should have manageable numbers, numbers which can be controlled and which can easily be monitored. These groups have all kinds of people, ex-convicts, children, pregnant women, the sick you name it and it can be difficult for monitoring purposes,” said Mr Maronge.