Tracking travel to help Covid-19 prevention

Andile Tshuma

Where have you been in the last 14 days?

This is the question that we must all be able to answer clearly and truthfully to authorities. This is a question whose answer will help to potentially save and protect thousands from a potential infection of Covid-19.

Bulawayo City Council Acting Health Services Department Director Mr Charles Malaba, while addressing the parliamentary portfolio committee on health during a tour of Thorngrove Hospital in Bulawayo yesterday, said it was important for Zimbabweans to track their travel for the days to come and for the last two weeks in an effort to help avert infection. 

“It’s a very simple but necessary question. To help the health services providers to help you, this is a question which must be met with utter honesty. If someone is arriving from outside the country, they must be at a position to detail where they have been, how many countries they had travelled to, their company for those days, and if they think they may have been at risk or may have been in the company of people exposed to Covid-19,” said Mr Malaba. 

Covid-19 is real. More than 10 000 have lost their lives so far, with over 260 000 having been infected globally. As of yesterday afternoon, South Africa had recorded 202 cases of the virus. So close to our country. 

Some people do not seem to be worried. We were spared by ebola as Zimbabwe. We were spared by cholera and typhoid as Bulawayo. These are blessings. But it is not a given that we will sail through and be spared from Covid-19. We should not be found wanting should the pandemic decide to hit closer home. 

The significance of the 14-day travel tracker is because the virus can take up to 14 days to incubate. So, someone who may have been out of the country 14 days ago may still be feeling healthy and fine yet unknowingly sick and potentially infecting others. 

If you feel unwell and know that you have travelled, it is important to declare whenever you arrive, at a health centre that you had travelled within the last fortnight. 

This is responsible behaviour that protects you and other people. 

It is important for people to now heed Government’s call and avoid unnecessary travel, within the country and particularly beyond our borders. 

We must also take heed of the instruction not to hold large gatherings. As suggested last week, Government has banned public gatherings of more than a 100 people. Schools are closing on Tuesday. 

Churches and other places where people regularly gather must comply with this directive and ensure that they protect their congregants. 

Most churches have adopted worshipping in cell groups or zones, where a few families gather for worship. This is a better option as numbers are limited but it would be ideal to totally avoid all meetings of all sorts. Virtual worship could be ideal. Services can be conducted via Facebook live for those with access to data, while we could tune into Christian channels available for various denominations to get our spiritual upliftment. This does not mean that people are of little faith, but it is necessary to avert crisis. 

BCC revealed that Thorngrove Hospital can only take care of 17 patients at its isolation ward. This is worrying news and shows that there is a lot of work that the Ministry of Health must do to ensure that Bulawayo and the Southern region are prepared. 

There have been suggestions that Ekusileni Hospital could be temporarily opened as a quarantine centre to help ease the burden on Thorngrove and one can only hope that something comes out of these plans.

The parliamentary portfolio committee on health chairperson, Dr Ruth Labode, said the state of preparedness in the city was in shambles adding the only way to ensure that people would be catered for was to open Ekusileni, which has been idle for years. 

She said Thorngrove Hospital must be reserved for the really sick people in need of clinical care, while people who just need to be in quarantine could be housed at Ekusileni. It seems like an idea that can be looked into, after all Ekusileni is just gathering dust, something good could come out of it. 

United Bulawayo Hospitals and Mpilo Central Hospital have both commended the BCC Rapid Response Team on Covid-19 for quickly responding to distress calls from the hospitals when they receive suspected cases of Covid-19. The rapid response to rush to the airport to attend to suspected cases is also encouraging and shows that people still put their hearts in their work. 

Special mention therefore goes to the BCC Rapid Response Team. The good word from Mpilo and UBH hospitals on their rapid response is true testimony that the team is doing something right. 

Resources are limited, but people are making things happen with the little that is available.

With the little resources available, people must do their part by doing all that is possible to prevent infection in the first place. Take care of yourself, stay protected, sanitise your hands, cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze, teach children the right habits, ensure that the elderly in your community know about Covid-19 and what to do, and avoid unnecessary travel. 

It only takes one infected person to infect a thousand. But we can all work together to ensure we stay healthy. – @andile_tshuma

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