Government officials announced on Wednesday, May 27, that the number of confirmed coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases in Zimbabwe had more than doubled in 24 hours, with the identification of 76 new cases taking the total to 132. All but one of the new cases in Beitbridge, Masvingo and Harare have been attributed to people returning to the country from South Africa and Botswana, with domestic transmission of the disease remaining limited. However, there have been increasing concerns in recent weeks over the level of screening for Zimbabwean citizens crossing back into the country. Although the country's borders remain closed to foreign nationals, more than 4000 people are believed to have returned to Zimbabwe over the last month, hundreds of whom are reported to have fled quarantine facilities where they are expected to remain for 21 days after entering the country.
Zimbabwe has been under a Level 2 COVID-19 lockdown since March 30, under which citizens are expected to stay at home, except to seek medical assistance, buy food, or receive other essential services. However, the government has begun to ease some measures since May 16, with business opening hours being extended to 08:00 to 16:30 (local time).
Nevertheless, wearing a face mask in public spaces remains mandatory. All public transportation services, except Zupco, also remain suspended with exemptions for employees in essential services. Security personnel have been deployed across the country to ensure the public comply with the lockdown measures. The manufacturing, mining, public, and health sectors are exempt from the aforementioned measures.
As of Thursday, May 28, there have been 132 confirmed COVID-19 cases and four associated fatalities in Zimbabwe. Further international spread of the virus is to be expected over the near term.
The first case of COVID-19 was reported on December 31 and the source of the outbreak has been linked to a wet market in Wuhan (Hubei province, China). Human-to-human and patient-to-medical staff transmission of the virus have been confirmed. Many of the associated fatalities have been due to pneumonia caused by the virus.
Cases of the virus have been confirmed in numerous countries and territories worldwide. Virus-screening and quarantining measures are being implemented at airports worldwide, as well as extensive travel restrictions. On March 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the global outbreak a pandemic.
Pneumonia symptoms include dry cough, chest pain, fever, and labored breathing. Pneumonia can be contagious and can be transmitted from human to human. The influenza virus, or the flu, is a common cause of viral pneumonia.
Measures adopted by local authorities evolve quickly and are usually effective immediately. Depending on the evolution of the outbreak in other countries, authorities are likely to modify, at very short notice, the list of countries whose travelers are subject to border control measures or entry restrictions upon their arrival to the territory in question. It is advised to postpone nonessential travel due to the risk that travelers may be refused entry or be subject to quarantine upon their arrival or during their stay.
To reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission, travelers are advised to abide by the following measures:
- Frequently clean hands by applying an alcohol-based hand rub or washing with soap and water.
- When coughing and sneezing, cover mouth and nose with a flexed elbow or tissue; if used, throw the tissue away immediately and wash hands.
- If experiencing a fever, cough, difficulty breathing, or any other symptoms suggestive of respiratory illness, including pneumonia, call emergency services before going to the doctor or hospital to prevent the potential spread of the disease.
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