THE Bulawayo City Health Department has instituted an investigation after claims that a dozen of people who attended a lavish and wild birthday party thrown by a city socialite and businessman last month contracted coronavirus.
Two people who reportedly attended the party have since died, the second being a close associate of the party organiser who died on Friday, reportedly from Covid-19 complications. The party, which was held on 4 July at a lodge in the affluent suburb of Burnside, has become the talk of the town with some reports alleging that most people who graced the event had contracted coronavirus which causes the Covid-19 disease. Bulawayo has seen a spike in Covid-19 cases with most of them linked to local transmission. As of Friday, the city had 847 cases and 18 deaths.
Bulawayo City Health Director Dr Edwin Sibanda told Sunday News yesterday that the party was now under investigation, as officials were trying to figure out if any Covid-19 cases recorded in the city so far, were linked to the event.
“We have seen the social media reports and we have heard the voice notes from people and currently we are investigating to establish whether any of the Covid-19 deaths that we have had can be linked to that party. As of this moment we are not sure that there was a party in the first place. If there was, I think it would be irresponsible for anyone to hold a social gathering of that nature when they are aware that the risk of Covid-19 increases exponentially when people gather in numbers in confined spaces,” he said.
Sunday News established that the party was allegedly organised by city businessman Mr Moses Matsveru, who reportedly brought together some of the most prominent socialites from Bulawayo and even some from Harare. Most of the guests were money changers, car dealers, businesspeople and so-called “slay queens” converging for what has already been dubbed the Party of the year.
At a time when mass social gatherings are strictly prohibited, the party is said to have been graced by more than 100 people at a time when social gatherings are restricted to just 50. Scenes from the party, gleaned from videos availed by some people who attended the bash showed the attendees seemingly disregarding rules of social distancing as they shared bottles of expensive alcohol.
Bottles of Veuve Clicquot Champagne were passed from mouth to mouth, while a few exuberant patrons used the pricey bottles of booze to wash their hands and faces, with patrons cheering as the pricey liquid ran on the ground. A bottle of Veuve Clicquot Champagne costs as much as US$140 in local nightspots where it is available.
However, the man who was at the centre of attention on the day of the party, Mr Matsveru, denied that the videos were from the 4 July gig, claiming that the videos were instead from a party held last year. The rumours seem to have been sparked by the death of one of Mr Matsveru’s associates (name supplied), allegedly from Covid-19 on Friday morning.
“I have seen the videos but all these are from last year in December. People have just brought them just as a way of fixing me, I guess. Those are very old videos. They are bringing this up at a time when I am mourning a dear friend and they are suggesting that he was infected at a party. The person that they are using for this did not even drink, he was someone who fixed satellite dishes, not a money changer as some people on social media are saying. It’s unfortunate that people are using the death of someone close to us to try and discredit us with lies.”
Sunday News also traced some people who attended the party who, however, confirmed that the videos were from the recent lavish gathering. Some of the people said they were living in fear after numerous reports linked some of the Covid-19 deaths to the party.
“We heard one guy died here and there are rumours that another died in South Africa. We have also heard that another guy was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit in a South African hospital when he was unable to breathe. These guys could have crossed illegally into and out of the country. We are now living in fear because people are getting sick in numbers. It’s been over 21 days since that party and I have not had any symptoms but we are all in living fear,” said a party goer that spoke to Sunday News anonymously.
Bulawayo Provincial Medical Director Dr Welcome Mlilo said he was not aware of any reports pertaining to cases emanating from a party as he had been out of office.
“Unfortunately, I am not privy to such information because I have been out of the city this whole week. The person who might be able to help is the Director of City Health. I have been in Gweru this week so I cannot be able to comment on the issue,” he said.
A doctor at UBH where Covid-19 cases are referred told Sunday News that he has also heard that some of the people at the isolation centre had links to the party. UBH has been identified as a temporary Covid-19 hospital pending the completion of renovations at the designated Covid-19 health institutions in Bulawayo. The institution, last week started admitting Covid-19 patients.
“We do not divulge history or names of patients but I have heard that some of the patients we have were linked to that party,” the doctor said on condition of anonymity.
UBH, acting chief executive officer Dr Narcisius Dzvanga confirmed hearing the case of the house party but could not confirm admissions to the institution.
“I have heard of the case where they are alleging that three or five people have already died but I am not aware of that,” he said.
He, however, said there were growing fears among the populace over the UBH’s new status of being a Covid-19 health institution.
“Our numbers from UBH range from zero admissions in the hospital, zero attendance in casualty and our tangible explanation for this trend is that people are now afraid of the tag on UBH that it is now a Covid-19 admission centre. So, nobody including pregnant women, accident victims, or anybody, wants to come here. You can even check with our gate, there is nobody at all,” he said.
— Sunday News