Zimbabwe’s public hospital doctors opted to stay home Wednesday over a lack of protective gear as the coronavirus begins to spread in a country whose health system has almost collapsed. It’s the latest blow to a system where some patients’ families are asked to provide such basics as gloves and even clean water.
The Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association president, Tawanda Zvakada, said the hundreds of doctors are at “high risk” and will return to work when the government provides suitable protection:
”This is not a strike. We will go back once they make available personal protective equipment,” Tawanda Zvakada, the ZHDA secretary general, told Reuters. He declined to say how many doctors were absent from work.
Customs officials at Zimbabwe’s biggest airport also stopped reporting for work on Wednesday, fearing exposure to coronavirus and a lack of measures to prevent its spread, their union said.
Zimbabwe has recorded one death from three confirmed cases of coronavirus, but the opposition and critics of President Emmerson Mnangagwa accuse his government of under-reporting the number of cases. The government denies this.
The Zimbabwe Revenue Authority Trade Union said its members at the main airport in the capital Harare came into contact while dealing with the man who died from coronavirus, but they were not tested or put into mandatory isolation.
“There is very high exposure of all staff at the referred airport due to lack of proper stop-gap facilities to mitigate the possible spread of the deadly virus,” said Lovemore Ngwarati, the union’s secretary-general.
“The workers shall not report for duty until proper measures are taken to substantially mitigate the danger.”
Faith Mazani, commissioner-general of Zimbabwe Revenue Authority, did not respond to calls for comment.
Facing its worst economic crisis in a decade, Zimbabwe is grappling with soaring inflation and shortages of foreign currency and medicines that has crippled its hospitals.