Zimbabwe on Friday reported its first coronavirus case, a man who returned to his home in the tourist resort town of Victoria Falls from Britain at the weekend.
“The is the first case of Covid-19 in Zimbabwe,” said Health Minister Obadiah Moyo on state television ZTV.
“The patient is a 38-year-old Caucasian man… who had travelled to Manchester in the UK on the 7th of March and returned to his home in Victoria Falls on the 15th of March via South Africa,” he said.
The Zimbabwean government on Tuesday announced a raft of steps to prevent the virus from spreading – including the cancellation of public and sporting events, and constraints on gatherings. Schools will close on Tuesday.
The country’s public health system, meanwhile, has been suffering for years from a lack of equipment and drugs.
It came under further strain last year when hundreds of junior doctors at state hospitals staged a three-month strike over conditions and pay – which then was less than $200 a month.
Meanwhile, Zimbabwe’s defence minister had earlier called the coronavirus pandemic a “punishment” of the US and Europe for imposing sanctions against members of the ruling regime over human rights abuses. Coronavirus has infected more than 150,000 people worldwide and killed almost 6,000 since it was first detected in China last December.
“Coronavirus is the work of god punishing countries who imposed sanctions on us,” said Zimbabwe’s defence minister Oppah Muchinguri on Saturday, speaking at a rally in the northern town of Chinhoyi.
“They are now staying indoors. Their economies are screaming just like they did to our economy.”
The United States and the European Union first imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe during the despotic rule of the country’s late ex-president Robert Mugabe, ousted by the military in November 2017.