Zimbabwe: nurses walk out, customs officials protest over coronavirus


Nurses at Zimbabwe state hospitals walked off the job on Wednesday, saying government failed to respond to demands for protective equipment as they brace for a battle against the coronavirus.

Customs officials at the country’s biggest airport did not report for work, fearing exposure to the coronavirus and a lack of measures to prevent its spread, their union said.

The virus killed one person from three confirmed cases in Zimbabwe with opposition and critics of President Emmerson Mnangagwa accusing his government of under-reporting cases.

Government denies and Health Minister Obadiah Moyo said government resources have been set aside to acquire protective equipment.

“Our members think government is not taking them seriously. We can’t afford to lose nurses to this pandemic,” Enoch Dongo, secretary general of the 18 000 member Zimbabwe Nurses Association said.

Junior doctors at Harare Central Hospital, the country’s second biggest, withdrew services due to a lack of protective clothing to handle coronavirus patients, their union said.

Senior doctors at state hospitals said government should consider a total lockdown and equip all  medical facilities to handle coronavirus cases.

Most businesses and informal markets remained open despite Mnangagwa’s order to close all restaurants and pubs.

The Zimbabwe Revenue Authority Trade Union said its members at Harare airport contacted coronavirus while dealing with the man who died from it. They were not tested or put into isolation.

“The workers will not report for duty until proper measures are taken to substantially mitigate the danger,” Lovemore Ngwarati, union secretary general, said.

Facing its worst economic crisis in a decade, Zimbabwe is grappling with soaring inflation and shortages of foreign currency and medicines that has crippled its hospitals.

Zimbabwe is receiving some protective and medical equipment donated to African countries by Chinese billionaire and Alibaba co-founder Jack Ma.