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Zimbabwe's Doctors Call For Action After First COVID-19 Death

FILE - A medical staff member wears protective equipment while closing a window at the Wilkins Infectious Diseases Hospital in Harare, March 11, 2020.

Doctors in Zimbabwe are calling for stronger government support after the country's first death related to the coronavirus.

Thirty-year-old Zororo Makamba, a well-known TV broadcaster, died last Sunday at Wilkins Hospital in Harare. His family issued a statement Monday saying that the hospital, which the government named as the country's main coronavirus treatment center, lacks basic equipment such as oxygen and medical drugs for COVID-19 patients.

The concerns were echoed Tuesday by Dr. Sacrifice Chirisa, secretary general of the Zimbabwe Medical Association.

Charisa said Wilkins Hospital needs to be better equipped and that medical staff need more protection from the virus.

"We are applying for an urgent supply of personal protective equipment (PPE), masks, as soon as possible. Let's move the levers of power, let's talk to our neighbors, let's talk to our all-weather friends. We need PPE if we are to fight COVID (19) and manage effectively," Charisa said.

Makamba had recently traveled to the United States and returned from New York two weeks before his death, according to his family.

On Monday, President Emmerson Mnangagwa partially closed Zimbabwe's borders in an effort to limit people's exposure to COVID-19.

He said the government is taking steps to give medical staff greater support.

"I am also aware of things which continue being raised by our health personnel who are in the frontline of fighting this pandemic," Mnangagwa said. "They continue to deliver services at great personal risk. They deserve our support. They must be rewarded. To that end, I have ordered the release of additional funding towards procurement of safety clothing to be flown into the country."

Mnangagwa did not indicate when the equipment would be procured.

For years, critics have said the government neglects Zimbabwe's health sector. They fear Zimbabwe will turn into another epicenter of COVID-19.

In the past, the United States and European Union have stepped in with equipment and drugs when Zimbabwe was hit by outbreaks of waterborne cholera and typhoid.

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