AT least 279 people have died and more than 300,000 people have been infected with malaria in Zimbabwe since the peak season of the disease in January.
The outbreak comes at a time when Zimbabwe is grappling with the Covid-19 pandemic which has since infected 574 people leading to seven fatalities.
Zimbabwe’s National Malaria Coordinator Joseph Mberi said Tuesday that Covid-19 social distancing restrictions had deterred many people, especially in rural areas to seek medical attention in time, further complicating the situation.
Mberi said the Covid-19 outbreak had also forced health workers to be skeptical in dealing with people presenting malaria symptoms which are similar to the pandemic.
He said the coronavirus pandemic was a hindrance to early testing and treatment because health workers did not have adequate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
“In other areas, we have village health workers who are supposed to treat but those have been affected by the restrictions of social distancing as they are afraid. We still have a challenge of adequate PPE in the country so that is the context,” he said.
Malaria is among the top causes of illness and deaths in Zimbabwe, with over half of the population living in high-risk areas.
Transmission of the disease in the country is seasonal and mainly occurs during the rainy season between November and April.