Legislators Worried About Zim Airport Coronavirus Preparedness

PARLIAMENTARIANS have raised concerns over Robert Gabriel Mugabe (RGM) International Airport’s preparedness to handle the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) should it come in Zimbabwe.

By Kudakwashe Pembere

These reveletaions were made during  Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Health and Child Care tour of RGM International Airport and Wilkins Infectious Diseases Hospital on Wednesday.

Speaking to the media after the tour, Parliament Health Committee chairperson Dr Ruth Labode said she had some concerns including Immigration officers at the airport wearing wrong masks. The officers wore surgical masks which are flat instead of N95 respirator masks used in the prevention of contracting and or spreading the COVID-19, a respiratory disease.

One obviously I saw a wrong mask. I don’t know if any of you observed a mask that is flat covering the nostrils. That mask is not good. I saw one of the girls pulling it down actually because she couldn’t breathe. Then there were some areas especially Immigration, no mask! The ZIMRA officials have got a challenge.

“They have the right mask but they have to ask questions. I don’t know whether it is really worth it to ask somebody with a small box and choose to die with them to say what do you have? She had actually removed the mask what was in that box until I said put on the mask. This box is not really worth your death or you bringing coronavirus into the country. I don’t know if some of my colleagues observed other things.

“I would have loved to have seen the regalia and see who has been trained or has Wilkins trained some of the port health authorities to put on the regalia? I believe it is there. I’m told there is a fire brigade ambulance which ferries the suspected case from Robert Mugabe airport, across the other park where there is a PSMAS Clinic and behind there is a very good isolation centre. Then the patient will wait for a Wilkins Ambulance which is appropriate to take them to Hospital,” she said.

She noted distinctions on the preparedness levels between Wilkins and the Airport.

“For Zimbabwe, I would like to separate the two. Wilkins is definitely prepared to receive a case for coronavirus. The airport, quite a few can sneak through. It’s porous. We are sitting maybe at 60 percent,” Dr Labode said.

Dr Labode added, “The other problem that could happen and we need to understand is that the Airport is a business enterprise. One of their core business is not health. Port Health Authority is only interested in identifying cases through whatever. They will protect here as a Ministry.

“And then you have these people who now must have almost a unit that is looking after mask and other things. So the culture of you as a private business now investing in protecting the nation, is another story.

“We have immigration where government must take this responsibility through the Ministry of Health to make sure that immediately there is a fund that is allocated to immigration for them to buy everything they need. That’s where the problem is.”

She noted that there are disjointed authorities within the airport.

“You have Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe (CAAZ), you have Immigration, you have ZIMRA, you have Port Health Authority. Port Health Authority maybe being looked after ministry of health may benefit from this WHO things. But then you have Zimra, Zimra, they make money I expect them to buy for themselves. It’s as evident they have money because they all had masks. So for me I believe there is a lot of work to do at the Airport,” Dr Labode said.

Chinhoyi MP Dr Peter Mataruse said there was need for the Airport to have public clinic acting as an isolation facility before referral to Wilkins.

Port Health Authority Officials, Immigration Officials, CAAZ Officials admitted that there is a lot to be done to improve the health and safety of the nation and promised to work on the gaps.

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