Zimbabwe has put 506 people under surveillance after they recently travelled to Chinese cities that are now hard-hit by the coronavirus outbreak.
Health and Child Care minister Obadiah Moyo said people returning from worst-hit areas in China had been asked to self-quarantine in their homes for two weeks and are restricted from going to public spaces such as offices or any gatherings.
“Rapid response units will also be set up in all provinces and at all border posts,” Information minister Monica Mutsvangwa told journalists in Harare. “Further updates will be made available in order to safeguard the nation at all times.”
The isolation and quarantine units have been established in Harare, Bulawayo and Victoria Falls. However, no one has been admitted at the centres so far.
The death toll from the coronavirus in mainland China had risen to 490 as of Wednesday with 24,324 infections so far.
Cases of the flu-like disease have also been recorded in over a dozen countries.
A number of African countries have moved to restrict travel to China, but Zimbabwe has only encouraged its nationals to postpone their trips to China until the outbreak is brought under control.
Dr Moyo has insisted that the country’s health institutions were ready to deal with a coronavirus outbreak.
“Everyone is ready and the country is well equipped,” he said.
China’s ambassador Zimbabwe Gao Shaochum said the Chinese community was being sensitised about the outbreak.
“Those who have returned from the most affected regions in China, such as Hubei Province, are advised to delay coming back to Zimbabwe until the situation eases in order to reduce the risk of bringing the virus to Zimbabwe,” Mr Gao told The Herald newspaper.
Zimbabweans that regularly travel to China include students and informal traders.
The southern African country also has a big population of Chinese nationals working on various projects funded by Beijing.
The projects include the construction of a “new capital city” on the outskirts of Harare where a new Parliament building is being built.
Zimbabwe’s health system is bearing the brunt of an economic crisis that has left hospitals without equipment and drugs.
Last year, doctors went on a four-month long strike demanding an improvement in their working conditions and payment of salaries in foreign currency.
Last month, Zimbabwe billionaire Strive Masiyiwa, through his philanthropic arm Higher Life Foundation, offered to pay the doctors a monthly allowance of about $300 for six months so that they go back to work.
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