Zimbabwean authorities have shutdown a school in the western part of the country where 118 students have contracted COVID-19.
In an interview, Matabeleland North provincial medical director, Dr. Munekayi Padingani, said students and teachers have been quarantined at the school, which is almost 43 kilometers north east of Bulawayo.
Dr. Padingani dismissed reports that a student has died at the school, saying the Ministry of Health could have been informed by school authorities if there were any deaths.
“That’s not true. All our cases from that school are stable and we set up a satellite clinic there. So, our staff are there. They are monitoring them. If there was death, we were going to report using our normal channels to tell the head office and you were going to see it in our daily reports. So, today, we did not record any deaths.”
He said the school the relevant authorities have sealed off the school in order to stop more COVID-19 infections.
“If you want to assist you can use the Ministry of Education channels or Ministry of Health, depending on the type of assistance you want to give to the school because the school has been closed. They (children and teachers) are quarantined, no one in, on one out. It’s only medical stuff and the support team that can go there. If the Ministry of Education want to give them food, they leave it by the gate and the staff collects it from there.”
School authorities were unreachable for comment as calls to the headmaster and other staff members were not being answered.
Evidence Dube, a parent with one of the quarantined students, said some students were released from the school under unclear circumstances.
“My child is quarantined with other students but I understand that some of them were sent home. I’m not sure how they did that because the information I have is that they may have tested positive for COVID-19. According to what I have gathered from the relevant authorities, those that are quarantined cannot physically have access to the outside world. They will be kept at the school until the disease is under control. There is no timeline for this.
“The most disturbing thing about COVID-19 is that one can have the disease but without showing any symptoms. It’s devastating to parents because you may think that your child has not contracted COVID-19 yet she has the virus. There is need to do some thorough screening so that students, teachers and parents do not contract the disease.”
Several organizations, including the Zimbabwe Christian Alliance (ZCA), are currently assisting the school by providing an assortment of goods, including sanitizers.
ZCA executive director, Reverend Useni Sibanda, said they visited the school on Friday and donated snap sack packs and other items, which were dropped outside the school.
“We donated all-purpose cleaners containing hydrogen peroxide used for cleaning and disinfecting classrooms, soap, toothpaste, sanitary pads and washing buckets.”
Sibanda said ministers of religion are also expected to counsel students “as there is a lot that happens when they are in such a situation. Everyone is in our prayers.”
As at November 19, 2020, Zimbabwe had 9,046 confirmed cases, 6,195 recoveries and 265 deaths.
VOA Zimbabwe Correspondent Bathabile Masuku contributed to this article