OFFICERS at Bulawayo Central Police Station pressed the panic button when a local returning from South Africa, who is also a fraud suspect, started coughing uncontrollably in the holding cells leading to the suspicion that he had Covid-19.
Bewildered officers called the Bulawayo City Council Covid-19 Rapid Response team to the station and the suspect was rushed to Thorngrove Infectious Diseases Hospital where he is admitted to the isolation ward.
The drama unfolded hours after the detention of the suspect on Monday.
Sources said police officers initially thought the 30-year-old suspect was faking Covid-19 symptoms to get released.
The virus has infected about 894 000 people and has killed about 45 000 people globally.
In Zimbabwe, eight have been infected and one has died.
Other suspects who were locked up in the holding cells with the suspect reportedly started hysterically banging cell bars for attention as the coughing got worse.
The suspect was at the time exhibiting more Covid-19 like symptoms, such as shortness of breath, shivering and sneezing.
A senior police officer allegedly had to rally subordinates who were scurrying all over the charge office in alarm.
National Police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi confirmed the incident yesterday and said the affected police officers and other inmates were in isolation.
“I can confirm that we had a suspect who exhibited symptoms of Covid-19. The rapid response team was called to the station and the suspect was taken to the Thorngrove Infectious Diseases Hospital for monitoring,” said Asst Com Nyathi.
“We are waiting for the relevant health authorities to confirm if it’s a Covid-19 case or not. The safety of police officers and any other staff involved in Covid-19 activities is of primary concern to the Commissioner-General of police (Godwin Matanga). Government is mobilising resources to avail more protective equipment for police officers.”
Asst Comm Nyathi said medical officers within the police force were attending to police officers who were on duty and had sent them into self-isolation as prescribed by health experts.
He said other suspects who may have come into contact with the patient would also be under self-isolation.
Bulawayo City Council Assistant Health Services Director Dr Khulamuzi Nyathi while addressing journalists yesterday at the Thorngrove Infectious Diseases Hospital during a handover of donations from well-wishers in the city, said the patient was under observation.