Fifty-four people died between Wednesday and Thursday and 733 tested positive for COVID-19, Zimbabwe’s Ministry of Health has said.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa says all Zimbabweans not doing essential work should hence stay indoors following the upsurge of COVID-19, which has claimed the lives of some top government officials, including Transport minister Joel Biggie Matiza and Foreign Affairs Minister Sibusiso Moyo.
In a State of The Nation Address Saturday 23 January 2021, Mnangagwa said a new COVID-19 strain is spreading faster, killing people regardless of status in society.
The number of infections in Zimbabwe has gone past 30,000 with indications pointing to more infections in the coming hours, Mnangagwa said.
“To date, we have lost 962 of our loved ones and soon, we will reach and even pass the grim mark of a thousand. The situation is very worrisome and threatens to become dire. There is hope however. Our recovery rates are once more beginning to creep up,” said Zimbabwe’s president.
He said, as a vaccine is due to be got soon, Zimbabweans must not lay down their guards. He said no effort will be spared to protect the lives of Zimbabweans.
His words: “The pandemic has been indiscriminate in its grim harvest. Zimbabweans from all walks of life, all stations, all tribes, all races and regions have succumbed to it. We have lost loved ones, ministers of government; we have lost more across the political divide. The danger we face needs us to be united. There are no spectators, no holier than thou, no supermen or superwomen. We are all exposed. We are all potential victims. We must stand together arm in arm, holding each and one another like a united people.”
Like President Mnangagwa said, COVID-19 has been merciless in its grim harvest in Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwe is thus in the eye of the storm as COVID-19 ramps through the country, killing the haves and the have-nots.
The country battles a severe Covid-19 outbreak in which cases have accelerated to 30,000 with deaths now nearing 1,000.
At least three sitting ministers, three ex-ministers, and a former lawmaker have succumbed to COVID-19 in the last seven days. Many other politicians have tested positive and are being treated.
Retired Major General Paradzai Zimondi, erstwhile Prisons, and Correctional Services Commissioner General died of Covid-19 on Friday, 22 January 2021.
73-year-old Zimondi was among former President Robert Mugabe’s close allies and constituted a group of service chiefs credited for keeping the late leader’s rein from fierce challenge by the opposition.
The death of the former Prisons Boss came a few hours after the death of Joel Biggie Matiza, Zimbabwe’s transport minister.
Matiza died of COVID-19 at a private hospital in the capital Harare Friday.
Former Education Minister Aeneas Chigwedere also succumbed to COVID-19 earlier on Friday, 22 January 2021.
Friday’s deaths of Zimbabwe’s top shots came on the heels of the passing away of ministers Sibusiso Moyo, Joel Biggie Matiza, ex-education minister Aeneas Chigwedere and ex-Zanu PF MP Christopher Chigumba who all died in a single week.
Foreign Minister Sibusiso Moyo died of COVID-19 complications earlier this week.
Ellen Gwaradzimba, minister of provincial affairs for the Manicaland Province, and Morton Malianga, Zimbabwe’s deputy finance minister in the 1980s, also succumbed to the disease last week.
Zimbabwe is experiencing a resurgence of the disease, with record numbers of daily confirmed cases and deaths.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa cut short his 2021 holiday on Thursday to bury Cabinet minister, Ellen Gwaradzimba, who died from COVID-19 last week.
Opposition spokeswoman Fadzayi Mahere says she has tested positive for COVID-19 after being released from prison. She was freed after seven days of detention on Monday.
Jailed journalist Hopewell Chinono and other inmates had previously raised concern about overcrowded prison conditions, which they said encourages COVID-19 transmission among inmates and jail guards.
Harare mayor and opposition official, Jacob Mafume, released from jail this week after month-long detention, is in isolation after his lawyers said three of his cellmates had died from COVID-19.
Zimbabwe, like many other African countries, initially recorded low numbers of COVID-19 but has recently experienced a spike in cases. There are fears that a new, more infectious variant of the virus arrived from South Africa when scores of thousands of Zimbabweans living in South Africa returned home for the holiday season.
The government has said it is in the process of conducting genetic sequencing to confirm the presence of the variant.
Zimbabwe, whose once robust public health system has deteriorated, has recorded 28,675 cases and 825 deaths on Jan.19, up from the slightly more than 10,000 cases and 277 deaths at the beginning of December, according to government figures.
The 7-day rolling average of daily deaths in Zimbabwe has risen over the past two weeks from 0.06 deaths per 100,000 people on Jan. 5 to 0.26 deaths per 100,000 people on Jan. 19, according to Johns Hopkins University.
The southern African country has not yet received any vaccines. The government has said it expects to get some vaccines through the international COVAX initiative, but it does not have a firm date on when they will be delivered.
Violation of barrier measures
Transport minister Joel Biggie Matiza, who died on Friday, is among those who attended a Covid-19 ‘superspreader’ birthday hosted by Information minister Monica Mutsvangwa.
Several ministers attended the birthday party that flouted Covid-19 restrictions. Scores of guests including ministers could be seen openly disregarding government coronavirus regulations.
Since March 2020 when President Emmerson Mnangagwa imposed coronavirus restrictions, thousands of ordinary citizens have been arrested across the country for not putting on masks in public and other Covid-19 related violations.
Images of ministers and a host of other guests partying, hugging, and merrymaking with her were shared by the information ministry’s secretary Nick Mangwana on Twitter.
Among those who attended the event were justice minister Ziyambi Ziyambi, home affairs minister Kazembe Kazembe, transport minister Joel Biggie Matiza, and Mangwana.
With the death of transport minister Joel Biggie Matiza who attended last month’s party, Zimbabweans are now holding their breath, fearing for the worst.
The President has called for the respect of barrier measures, until such a time when everyone would have been vaccinated.
Speaking at National Heroes Acre on Thursday during the burial of Manicaland Provincial Affairs Minister Ellen Gwaradzimba and veteran nationalist Morton Malianga, President Mnangagwa said Zimbabweans should unite to fight against COVID-19 like what they did in the 1960s liberation war.
“Help is on the way. Your government is doing all to ensure our nation is defended and protected,” Mnangagwa said in Saturday’s address.