The revelation that Zimbabwe has the second highest covid-19death per capita after Eswatini in statistics compiled for seven selected countries in the SADC region including South Africa has thrown focus on the testing and case management capabilities of Harare.
According to the Ministry of Health and Child Care situational report dated 6 August 2020, Zimbabwe has 10.8 deaths per million, South Africa 5.85, Mozambique 0.48, Botswana 0,86, Namibia, 5.9, Eswathini 17 and Zambia 1.68.
In terms of caseload and mortality for the same date, Zimbabwe has 4395 cases and 97 deaths, South Africa has 529877 cases and 9298 deaths, Mozambique has 2120 cases and 15 deaths, Botswana has 804 cases and 2 deaths, Namibia has 2652 cases and 15 deaths, Eswathini has 2968 cases and 55 deaths whileZambia has 7164 cases and 199 deaths.
In terms of cases per million Zimbabwe has 291, South Africa8886, Mozambique 68, Botswana 347, Namibia 1043, Eswathini 2688, Zambia 389.
The statistics may indicate the need for more testing in Zimbabwe as currently testing in public health institutions is based on people presenting with severe symptoms while it is now well acknowledged that a good number of those infected by covid-19 are asymptomatic.
This may also serve to explain the seemingly high mortality per capita versus the number of cases.
For example, in terms of per capita statistics Zimbabwe has 10,8 deaths per million while South Africa, the worst affected country in Africa has almost half at 5.85 per million.
This may mean that as South Africa’s testing is way ahead of Zimbabwe, our southern neighbour may be testing a larger sample with people with asymptomatic and mild symptoms while Zimbabwe has a narrow sample of people already presenting with severe symptoms or who have come in close contact with infected persons.
Concern has already been expressed over the low testing regime in Zimbabwe. With the pandemic spreading rapidly there is need for more testing and contact tracing especially with local transmission having evolved to being the dominant way the disease is spreading.
With more cases will also be increased morbidity requiring preparedness for more hospitalisation facilities.
In Europe coronavirus overwhelmed hospital facilities due to the sheer numbers affected when the disease reached its peak.
So, hospital authorities and local companies which have partnered government in the fight against covid-19 should invest more in testing kits, scientific evaluation of the disease hospital beds, PPE for hospital staff, sanitisers, medicines, and ventilators.
Many will remember the sad story of Zororo Makamba, the first covid-19 victim in Zimbabwe and how he frantically looked for a ventilator without success. Every effort should be made to admit and treat sick patients.
In South Africa there were reports of patients fighting for oxygen in the Eastern Cape, a scenario which Zimbabwe needs to avoid.
There are reports already from communities that those presenting with symptoms of covid-19 have nowhere to go after been turned back by health authorities, prompting government to issue a directive to health institutions to admit the patients without demanding covid-19 test certificates.
As the caseload curve steepens upwards and local transmissions soar, the best approach is to adequately prepare for what could be a large number of very sick people.