By Robert Tapfumaneyi
Vice President and Health Minister Constantino Chiwenga has denied claims the country’s hospitals are overwhelmed amid a surge in Covid-19 cases and face a critical shortage of beds and equipment.
However, the VP was quick to accuse “social media soldiers of fortune” of communicating falsehoods on social media that public and private hospitals had run out of beds and equipment.
Zimbabwe Thursday saw the highest toll of Covid-19 deaths when 47 people died and 1 112 new infections were recorded.
But, Chiwenga assured citizens must not to panic and rely on official government information and not social media.
“It would be, however, an exaggeration at this stage, to suggest that our health institutions are overwhelmed by cases of Covid-19,” he said in a statement Friday.
“Admittedly, the recent escalation of cases of the pandemic in the country caused a high demand for health care. Nonetheless, let me reassure citizens that Zimbabwe’s public and private health institutions still have adequate capacity to offer health services to all patients.
“In light of widely circulating reports alleging that there is a serious deficit of hospital beds, let me point out that these were ‘embellished social media allegations by some pen-mercenaries’.”
Chiwenga added: “However, if the need arises in future, my ministry may consider options of increasing facilities currently designated for Covid-19 or designate more hospitals to take in patients.
“In a worst case scenario, that has so far not manifested, all hospitals in the country may be directed to take in citizens affected by Covid-19.”
He said some administrative issues that had caused challenges in admitting Covid-19 patients in local hospitals had been resolved.
“Among them was, government’s extension of Covid-19 allowances to incentivise our health care workers, frontline workers, civil servants and vulnerable members of our society, and provision of PPEs (personal protective equipment).”
Commenting on the planned roll-out of the Covid-19 vaccine in the country, Chiwenga said government was following with keen interest developments in other countries carrying out the exercise.
“Despite the observations made that other African, European and Asian countries had started rolling out vaccines, Zimbabwe adopted a measured approach, with experts interrogating all safety concerns.
“As soon as all technical and administrative obligations are met, Zimbabweans can expect to be vaccinated. The vaccination is going to be voluntary. Let me underscore that my ministry is doing everything possible to ensure that our citizens are safe from possible side effects of some Covid-19 vaccines, currently on the shelf.
Zimbabwe has recorded a total of 25 368 confirmed cases including 636 deaths.