HARARE (Reuters) – Zimbabwe recorded 1,365 COVID-19 cases and 34 deaths on Tuesday, its single biggest daily increase for both as it began a month-long lockdown to curb surging infections.
Most businesses were shut and fewer cars were on the road in Harare and Bulawayo, the country’s two biggest cities, after the government announced an extended nationwide curfew, banned gatherings and ordered non-essential businesses closed for a month on Saturday.
Health officials say the country’s hospitals are being overwhelmed as infections rise quicker than before. Zimbabwe has recorded a total of 14,084 cases and 418 deaths since the first infection was recorded last March.
There was “a pretty high likelihood” that the new coronavirus variant 501.V2 identified in South Africa could be circulating locally, said Rashida Ferrand, a London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine professor working at the Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals in the Zimbabwean capital Harare.
But no sequencing had been done to investigate if there were cases of that variant in Zimbabwe yet, she said.
Neighbouring South Africa is home to millions of Zimbabwean economic migrants and many locals frequently travel between the two countries on business and to visit family.
“We have a much larger number of admissions currently compared to the first wave,” Ferrand said in emailed response to questions.
(Reporting by MacDonald Dzirutwe; Editing by Aurora Ellis)