There was fear and drama yesterday when a suspected coronavirus patient escaped from Wilkins Hospital sending social media in a frenzy. Apparently a Thai national who came into the country in the midst of last year had presented at the hospital with symptoms, not unlike those of coronavirus.

Before the hospital could establish, via a proper test, whether this individual had coronavirus or not, the said individual, a 26 year old male “escaped” prompting a police report after officials visited his given home address and found noone. It all sounded like fiction until the Herald and StarFM, both government surrogates, confirmed it.

As always the government was keen to play it all down:

Ministry of Health and Child Care CORONAVIRUS (COVID-19) UPDATE: 9 MARCH 2020

The Ministry of Health and Child Care continues to be guided by and follow World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines and advice on COVID-19 surveillance, follow up and case management.

The latest case referred to Wilkins Infectious Disease Hospital as a suspected case is that of a 26-year old man who came into Zimbabwe on the 14th February 2020 from Thailand. He presented at Wilkins Hospital on the 8th March 2020 (more than 14 days after arriving from Thailand), as a referral from a private institution where he had reported a 2-day history of cough (mainly at night), fever and sneezing.

Part of the Ministry of Health’s report on the incident

Mistrust and paranoia bred by incompetence

The public, spurred by social media is full of paranoia and mistrust and it’s not without justification. Last year the government grappled with cholera/typhoid, medieval diseases that should have been easily presented and not led to the death of scores of people. And yet both spread to various towns in Zimbabwe as the national government sought to play political chess with opposition controlled council governments.

Corona is a novel virus which is giving headaches to some of the most developed healthcare systems like Italy, France, the UK, China and the US. In fact countries like Iran have a much better healthcare than that of Zimbabwe.

People have thus been skeptical when the government has dared to claimed that they were ready. This latest incident shows that we have probably been lucky thus far. Individuals from affected countries can clearly come in and are not being properly monitored.

That a person came in, gave what’s looking like a fake address and managed to “escape” from Wilkins is disconcerting. The government and council were probably napping and if the real Mccoy comes, we are in trouble.