There has been a sudden surge in the number of coronavirus cases in Matebeleland over the past two weeks raising fears that the government might be forced to revise its lockdown measures in the province.
While Bulawayo has been an epicenter of the virus with more deaths in the city than elsewhere in the country since the beginning of October, there has been a sudden rise in the number of cases in Matebeleland North and South which should be worrying.
Bulawayo has recorded 149 new cases in the past two weeks but 120 recovered during the same period resulting in the number of active cases increasing from 102 to 121 as some have died.
Matebeleland North had 87 new cases and 10 recoveries. The number of active cases rose from 11 to 88, the second highest in the country after Harare with 71.
Matebeleland South, which is the gateway from South Africa fared better with 69 new cases and only four recoveries. The number of active cases rose from 10 to 65.
While most of the cases, except for Matebeleland South are reported to be local transmissions, there are fears that the surge could be due to returning residents who are coming back into the country through illegal crossing points as most of them do not have passports.
Deputy Health Minister John Mangwiro alluded to this when he told Newsday: “Government is also wary of returnees who enter the country through illegal entry points, which is resulting in social interaction of positive patients and those that are negative. We are working on putting in place strict border control measures to stop border jumping which contributes mostly to a surge in COVID-19 cases.”
Mangwiro said if the surge continues, the government might be forced to revise lockdown measures because they are the only effective way to curb the virus.
“Our experience with the pandemic has proved that a strict lockdown, although with its own disadvantages, is very effective in controlling the disease. What is most important is to save lives. If need be, government has to impose another lockdown. However, government still continues to encourage citizens to exercise precautionary measures to keep the figures low.”
The number of coronavirus cases is surging worldwide and now stands at 54.8 million cases, up from 46.4 million at the beginning of this month.
A total of 125 000 people have also died during the same period while the number of active cases has risen from 11.7 million to 15.3 million.
In the United States alone, the number of cases has risen by nearly two million in the past two weeks while that of deaths rose by nearly 16 000.