Andile Tshuma, Chronicle Correspondent
MYSTERY local Covid-19 transmissions whose source cannot be traced are worrying health experts in the country.
Most Covid-19 cases in the country have been accounted for as either from returning residents or have been linked to confirmed Covid-19 cases.
The Ministry of Health and Child Care has reported eleven local transmissions, also known as community infections in the health field, whose sources of infection are unknown.
On Monday, the ministry reported a Covid-19 case who died but the source of infection is not yet known.
A similar report was made on Tuesday that two more cases with unknown sources of infection had been reported in the country, now they have escalated to 11.
Globally, infections are closing in on the 1,1 million mark and deaths have topped 520 000.
In Zimbabwe 605 infections and seven deaths have been recorded.
Health experts have expressed concern over porous borders and the issue of Covid-19 patients escaping from isolation and quarantine centres and going into communities, which they have pointed out as a major potential source of untraceable community infections.
The Zimbabwe Medical Association (Zima) has since called for naming of people escaping from the centres to protect citizens.
Zima president Dr Francis Chiwora said escapees were a leading cause of the rise in mystery infections in communities and warned that if not addressed properly, Covid-19 infections and deaths could soar.
He said mystery infections were worrisome as contact tracing was difficult and infections could quickly multiply unchecked in communities.
He said porous borders and Covid-19 positive patients escaping from quarantine centres were the most probable source of the mystery infections and called on Government to strengthen security systems at quarantine centres and the country’s borders.
“What we are having are these community infections that are very problematic. You cannot easily trace them unlike the others we have been dealing with from the returning residents and from people linked to already known Covid-19 patients. These ones are showing us that Covid-19 is scattered out there and it is very difficult to follow up on them, because honestly where do you start.
“Suppose a positive person infects people at a supermarket in town. Each of those people go back to their respective suburbs and infects more people. The contact tracing is very difficult and this is worrying because we are not conducting enough tests as a country. If we were testing a lot, it would be better as we would be able to pick on more of these cases,” said Dr Chiwora.
Dr Chiwora called on Government to consider deferring the opening of schools.
“I think it’s worrisome that schools have opened, considering that children may not be the best group to observe Covid-19 prevention measures. We call on Government to defer schools opening especially when considering what has happened in countries such as South Korea and France where after they opened schools, they started recording new cases which escalated rapidly. Those schools had better resources but were still forced to close, what of us?” he asked.
Dr Chiwora called for behaviour change as he said that people were no longer taking necessary precautions to protect themselves in public spaces.
“The community infections cases are showing us that Covid-19 is real. When it is not related to returning residents or known confirmed cases, then it means that there are potentially lots more such cases out there. Quarantine escapees are a major source of this crisis as they are obviously interacting with communities wherever they go,” said Dr Chiwora.
Mpilo Central Hospital acting chief executive officer Dr Solwayo Ngwenya yesterday said it was important for people to use the cases of new mystery infections as a wake-up call and to start acting in a manner that matches the prevailing situation.
“It is worrying that people continue to walk around wearing masks with the nose sticking out. If people are finding masks uncomfortable, they must know that there is nothing comfortable in using a ventilator. They won’t like it. The worst is yet to come. The country does not have enough resources. We cannot have our hospitals filled with sick Covid-19 patients needing care. It will result in deaths and untold suffering for people. Some people must act responsibly so that we make efforts to contain the virus. These source-unknown infections must teach us something,” said Dr Ngwenya. — @andile_tshuma.