A woman who recently visited China died after being referred to a Harare hospital designated to handle coronavirus patients, but the government said she was free of the disease.
A statement by the information ministry on Saturday night provided little detail about the woman, who died on Friday.
The brief statement, posted on Twitter, said: “A Mutare woman who returned from China on January 24 presented to her GP on March 6 complaining of shortness of breath. She was referred to Wilkins Hospital for COVID-19 tests but died on the way. Subsequent tests at Wilkins indicated negative for coronavirus.”
The statement did not provide the age of the woman, or her nationality.
Earlier Saturday, ZimLive asked health minister Obadiah Moyo for his reaction to a news tip suggesting a Chinese national referred to Wilkins from the West End Clinic had died from coronavirus, but he declined to answer our questions.
The information received suggested the woman was of Chinese origin, and the government had decided on a cover-up allegedly fearing public hostility towards thousands of Chinese nationals presently in the country.
Hours later, following our enquiries, the ministry of information issued the statement.
Zimbabwe has not followed other countries in restricting travel to and from China, apparently fearing upsetting a key ally. With a creaking health service, Zimbabweans fear an outbreak in the country could spread quickly causing untold deaths.
The global number of confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus, which causes a disease known as COVID-19, surpassed 100,000 on Saturday in what the World Health Organisation (WHO) described as a “sombre moment.”
Over 3,400 people in more than 90 countries have died, mainly in China where the disease was first detected last December, before spreading around the world.
Only five African countries – Egypt, South Africa, Tunisia, Algeria and Nigeria have confirmed positive cases of coronavirus, but none have resulted in death,
About 3.4 percent of confirmed cases of COVID-19 have died, far above seasonal flu’s fatality rate of under 1 percent, the WHO said.
In a statement, the WHO said it “reminds all countries and communities that the spread of this virus can be significantly slowed or even reversed through the implementation of robust containment and control activities.”
“China and other countries are demonstrating that spread of the virus can be slowed and impact reduced through the use of universally applicable actions, such as working across society to identify people who are sick, bringing them to care, following up on contacts, preparing hospitals and clinics to manage a surge in patients, and training health workers,” the statement said.
“Allowing uncontrolled spread should not be a choice of any government, as it will harm not only the citizens of that country but affect other countries as well.”