THERE was panic in Bulawayo’s Makokoba suburb yesterday after funeral parlours allegedly refused to collect the body of a man suspected to have died of Covid-19 at his home.
False claims that the deceased was Covid-19 positive swept through Makokoba suburb and an agitated crowd that kept growing watched from a distance as the drama unfolded.
The bedridden man, identified as Danisa Tshili, allegedly arrived from South Africa on Wednesday where he had been mugged. He was coughing persistently and died the same night.
Residents said undertakers from a local funeral parlour allegedly refused to touch the body saying Tshili could have died from Covid-19.
South Africa has the highest number of coronavirus infections in Africa with more than 900 cases recorded.
“News spread through the suburb that funeral parlour workers wearing face masks and other protective clothing had refused to touch the boy. There was widespread panic and someone called the BCC (Bulawayo City Council) toll free number and the Rapid Response team said the man had not died from Corona,” said a neighbour who declined to be named.
Some neighbours alleged at least three funeral parlours had been called and refused to touch the body.
A Chronicle news crew had to take precautionary measures before visiting the suburb yesterday afternoon.
The situation had calmed down somewhat and a funeral parlour had finally taken the body to a local mortuary.
The news crew maintained social distancing as they tried to get details from the deceased’s family but they had gone to the mortuary.
Some residents went about their business. They were not maintaining the one metre apart social distancing as recommended to prevent Covid-19 spreading.
Bulawayo has not recorded any Covid-19 cases, although three cases have been recorded in Victoria Falls and Harare, with one of the patients succumbing to the disease.
BCC Health Services Director Dr Edwin Sibanda said the council’s rapid response team had arrived quickly to verify claims made by members of the public.
“We received that information and deployed our rapid response team who visited the home to assess the situation. He was in South Africa but had been ill for seven months and was receiving treatment. He was however attacked while in South Africa before being brought home. Unfortunately, he died at his home yesterday. But his death had nothing to do with Covid-19,” said Dr Sibanda.
He said the health sector would continue conducting its work despite some individuals peddling fake news.
“This is like what those in the information technology industry call a virus. You will be having your programme, and the virus comes as a separate item disturbing the news that we are circulating. Members of the public tend to believe whatever they would have heard first. Right now, if someone receives fake news that there are five cases in Bulawayo even if we tell that person that those cases do not exist, it becomes difficult to convince that person differently,” he said.
Dr Sibanda said in case a Covid-19 patient dies at home, the deceased’s relatives should call the rapid response team which consists of health environment officers who will provide direction on the burial of the body.