Nqobile Tshili, Chronicle Reporter
HEALTH officials have traced 47 people in Bulawayo who got in touch with the 79-year-old man who succumbed to Covid-19 on Saturday, with authorities warning of the possibility of more positive cases being recorded in the city.
Due to old age, the deceased is said to have not travelled much but his contacts live in both Eastern and Western suburbs of Bulawayo.
Among them is a network that includes 13 medical staffers at Mater Dei Hospital, colleagues and workers at Qalisa Retirement Village in Suburbs.
The deceased was cremated on Wednesday at Bulawayo Crematorium at West Park Cemetery after he was posthumously confirmed to have died of Covid-19 on Tuesday.
Health authorities’ say delays in confirming that he had Covid-19 were caused by centralised testing done in Harare, although processes have started to ensure that the National University of Science and Technology (Nust)’s Applied Genetic Testing Centre (AGTC), in connection with Mpilo Central Hospital, conduct local tests.
Contact tracing has also started in Matabeleland North province as he visited Ganda Lodge which is located inside Hwange National Park where he is alleged to have met some tourists between March 14 and 16.
Qalisa Retirement Village where he stayed has been put on lockdown with no one coming in or going out.
In an interview, Bulawayo City Council (BCC) health services director Dr Edwin Sibanda said they were leaving no stone unturned in tracing those he got into contact with, so that they are also tested.
“We have 47 people who are potential contacts and we are still following up on them and samples are being taken for those who fit the criteria,” said Dr Sibanda.
He said there is a huge possibility for Bulawayo to record positive cases linked to the 79-year-old man as has been the scenario with Harare cases.
“This is what happened in Harare where we had case number four or five which also could be traced to case number three. So, we don’t know whether we would have more cases or less. But I think we may pick one or two cases in the process,” said Dr Sibanda.
He said in contact tracing, members of the public need to be honest because critical contacts who may be at risk of contracting and spreading the virus may be left out.
Dr Sibanda said the deceased did not travel to many places upon returning from Hwange but his contacts are the ones who could spread the virus.
“He was an elderly man he needed some assistance. Someone must have done some house chores for him and those people are likely to be contacts. He was in hospital; there were people who nursed him, maybe even bathed or fed him. So, these people are more of contacts than anyone else. We need to know all of them and all of us become honest and tell the truth, hopefully we will catch more people and halt the spread,” said Dr Sibanda.
He said more than ever the public needs to comply with lockdown regulations.
Matabeleland North provincial medical officer Dr Purgie Chimbengerengwa said a team is on the ground contact tracing after the old man’s death.
“The team is working on the ground. We will furnish more details. It has been 24 days today after the gentleman left Ganda Lodge. Time lag is thus a challenge in effective contact listing. We will give you details when we have more details. Kindly allow us to follow through our processes,” said Dr Chimbengerengwa.
Hwange District medical officer Dr Fungayi Mvura said the deceased did not meet a lot of people but could not immediately give figures.
She said the district was diligently following up on people who might have been in contact with the deceased.
“The victim was at a lodge at Hwange National Park. He was never in the town. So, we are conducting contact tracing. He was in Hwange more than 21 days ago. So far there is no one with any (Covid-19) symptomic signs,” said Dr Mvura.
She said lodges and hotels in the district have since been closed in line with lockdown measures.
In a statement yesterday, Mater Dei Hospital assured the public that all necessary procedures were taken to ensure that staff and patients were not exposed to Covid-19 in line with national guidelines.
It said prior to handling the first Covid-19 case in Bulawayo, the hospital was working to establish a standalone unit to handle suspected cases.
“The measures include providing suitable personal protective equipment and support for the medical staff who would come to contact with the patients,” read the statement.
“The public may be assured that the appropriate protocols were followed, and that all sanitising procedures have taken place under the auspices of the Government Rapid Reaction Team.”
The hospital said it understands the fear and anxiety the Covid-19 case caused to the people of Bulawayo but assured them that all necessary procedures to prevent the spread of the virus from hospital have been taken.
“The 13 staff members who attended the case are under self-quarantine from work. However, the hospital is reviewing preparedness based on lessons learnt from this unfortunate incidence. The hospital is taking all appropriate measures to protect their valuable staff during this time and PPE is available as required for staff,” read the statement. — @nqotshili