GOVERNMENT has announced that it will move swiftly to close any school that records COVID-19 cases as part of measures to curb the spread of the virulent pandemic amid reports that the country was under a second wave of the highly infectious disease.
This came as John Tallach, a Presbyterian Church-run boarding school in Matabeleland North province recorded 100 COVID-19 cases, forcing authorities to seal off the institution
Announcing the Cabinet decision yesterday, chairperson of the COVID-19 ministerial taskforce Oppah Muchinguri, who is also Defence minister, said government would not take any chances as cases of new infections were going up.
“I want to say that after we received this report, Cabinet resolved and directed that where we are faced with this situation, the school must be closed immediately and we must make sure that as opposed to rapid testing we have to resort to PCR (polymerase chain reaction), so that we get the correct scientific result,” Muchinguri said.
“Using the standard operating procedures that were put in place for the reopening of schools, the Matabeleland North province COVID-19 rapid response team with the support from the Health and Child Care ministry structures, successfully handled the case of six female learners reported to have tested positive at a boarding school — John Tallach in the province,” she said.
“However, the situation further developed on Friday 13 November, when test results of 105 samples confirmed a further 38 COVID-19 positive cases, and the Health ministry has intervened and it is assisting the Primary and Secondary Education ministry to implement the necessary containment measures,” she said.
Muchinguri said although the COVID-19 cases were going up, government would use scientific methods to determine whether to further tighten the lockdown measures.
“I can confirm the numbers are increasing compared to week 44 which was 109, we are now at 294 and I can also confirm that Bulawayo, Harare, Matabeleland North and Matabeleland South are topping those areas.
“We indeed as a taskforce and Cabinet are very worried about the developments. I want to say that all the provincial taskforces and also the COVID-19 rapid response teams have been placed on full alert and they are monitoring closely the developments that are happening on the ground,” she said.
As at November 16, Zimbabwe had recorded 8 897 cases of COVID-19 which showed that the number of infections kept increasing amid fears that a new wave of the coronavirus might erupt in the country.
Harare remains the hardest hit with 3 339 cases, followed by Bulawayo with 1 821 cases.
John Tallach High School has so far been sealed off as government tries to prevent further spread of the pandemic.
Health officials said 73 of the affected pupils were asymptomatic, while 27 had mild symptoms.
The school was forced to lock down last week after six pupils were found to have higher than normal temperature, before five subsequently tested positive for the virus.
Matabeleland North acting Provincial medical director Munekayi Padingani said tests were still ongoing and the numbers could rise. The school has an enrolment of 670 pupils.
“The school is quarantined. No one is going in or out. Classes are closed. We have put a satellite clinic inside the school and our staff are staying there to test and treat. We now have an isolation centre on site. We are putting the pupils in clusters — those who are positive are put in one room; the negative in another room; those who are sick but tested negative in another room and those who have been tested are put in another room while waiting for results,” Padingani said.
Padingani said they had shipped sufficient personal protective equipment, medicines and other medical consumables to ensure that the makeshift clinic was well-equipped.
He said police were enforcing the complete lockdown of the school.
“We did our own investigations. You know in Bulawayo people are going to South Africa clandestinely and coming back. One of the students went there to bury his father illegally and came back. We are not sure if it’s that student who brought the disease. The problem started when they opened for the Lower Sixth and Form 3 classes on October 26,” Padingani said.
“The day the school called us to come and check on the six cases, that’s when the Form 2s and 1s were coming. They had to be stopped, so they are not at the school until this situation is contained.”
At least two teachers have the virus.
Of the first five cases that were sent home, the entire family of one of the pupils tested positive.
“We are just speculating for now, looking at various scenarios, before we do a scientific investigation,” Padingani said. Teachers’ unions had opposed the opening of schools for the third term for fear of such incidents.