HARARE – Panic spread among 25 Zimbabweans in mandatory quarantine at Belvedere Teachers’ College after the health ministry announced on Wednesday night that two members of the group had tested positive for the coronavirus – before the results were communicated to the detainees.
By 9AM on Thursday, health officials had still not given the group their results from samples collected on Monday shortly after their arrival onboard a special Ethiopian Airlines flight.
“We are just reading on Twitter and online that our results are out and two of us have tested positive. As I speak right now, we still have not been told what our individual results are. The government is causing unnecessary anxiety on so simple a matter like this,” a member of the group said via phone on Thursday.
The initial announcement of the positive results was made late Tuesday, when the ministry of health reported three new cases but provided no further details.
Further information was provided late Wednesday when the ministry said two of those positive results were from the group at Belvedere, and a third was that of an 82-year-old Mhondoro woman who died at the West End Hospital on Tuesday night.
The Belvedere detainees said they had sought an urgent meeting with City of Harare’s head of epidemiology and disease control Dr Kudzai Masunda.
Meanwhile, the detainees said they were shocked on Wednesday night when they saw social welfare minister Paul Mavima on ZBC news being shown rooms at the college with better beds and running water.
“Instead of assessing rooms where the returnees live, they went to a hostel where none of us has access and presented the rooms there as the ones we have been saying are uninhabitable,” one of the detainees said.
“Our assumption is that the authorities cajoled the administration here to prepare some rooms for a public relations stunt. It’s Thursday today and I can tell the nation that we still don’t have running water. There is nothing we would like more than shifting to the rooms we saw on ZBC.”
The returnees feel the government has been on a mission to turn the public against them. When they initially refused to stay at Belvedere after finding there was no water and they would be made to share communal bathrooms, a government spokesman claimed the group was demanding to be put up at a hotel on the taxpayer’s account. Members of the group accused the government of lying.
Government spokesman Nick Mangwana also appeared to suggest all the members of the group were from the United Kingdom, and also got their number wrong when he said they are 65.
It has since been established that there are 25 returnees at Belvedere, and they came from several countries including the United Kingdom and the United States of America. A large number of the group was working on a cruise ship.