ZIMBABWEAN citizens returning from abroad have complained that most quarantine centres have shabby and unhygienic facilities which promote the spread of Covid-19 rather than contain the disease.
The revelation comes at a time police announced they were tracking down more than 100 people who escaped from Covid-19 quarantine and isolation centres countrywide.
Some people under quarantine said they feared getting infected with the virus as social distancing is not observed at the centres.They also complained of poor quality food and a general lack of hygiene which they said was further exposing them to infection.
Sources told the Zimbabwe Independent that the authorities released 150 people who were quarantined at Gweru Polytechnic four days ahead of schedule on Sunday after they threatened to protest over poor conditions at the facility.
They consisted of Zimbabweans returning from Botswana and South Africa, who had been held at the institution for 17 days. The government is quarantining returning residents for 21 days.
Their Covid-19 test results were availed only on the last day at the facility despite the fact that samples had been collected on arrival.
“The things that are happening here are not good. At first they said they were going to avail the results on the eighth day of quarantine, but we have been waiting here ever since and it’s the sixteenth day,” a returnee from South Africa told the Independent over the phone on Saturday, a day before they were allowed to go.
“We are about 150 people and we share washrooms and bedrooms. Basically, we are sharing everything and my worry is that if there are some of us who have the virus, it can spread rapidly because they have held on to the test results for too long. They want us to stay sanitised and this is what they give us? This is a major concern. This way, Zimbabwe cannot contain coronavirus, we will get more cases,” she said.
Another person who was also quarantined at the same facility complained about the treatment they were subjected to by the caregivers while in quarantine. She said they were virtually living like criminals in a maximum prison.
“They don’t communicate with us. They only come here and hold their meetings in their cars and if we try to ask them what is happening, they simply say they will address us tomorrow and this has been the case since we arrived here,” the source said.
“They are saying we should practice maximum hygiene yet there is no soap. The food is very bad and scarce. Yet still, they do not want us to receive supplies from home. We are like criminals here. I do not know how we can be helped because if it’s true that some of us are infected and yet we are sharing bedrooms in pairs, the end result is that all of us will be infected because we haven’t seen the test results and we don’t know who has the virus and who doesn’t.”
Matters got worse on Saturday when health officials visited the institution and informed two occupants that they had tested positive to Covid-19, but they were not separated from the group.
“Today (Saturday last week), they (health officials) came and called out two men whom they told had tested positive. The officials then said we can continue living as we have been doing since we came here and informed the two who tested positive to self-isolate from the rest of us. There is a bad doctor who is very short-tempered. When we tried to raise this issue with him, he told us off,” the source said.
“After this, people threatened to cause a scene and storm their way out since everyone now feared for their lives. We were surprised when they brought our test results and told us that were free to go home except for the two guys who had tested positive.”
Health and Child Care minister Obadiah Moyo said he had not received any report on the situation at Gweru Polytechnic.
“I am not aware of those issues. I will check it out, but our policy is clear. All those coming from outside are supposed to be put under mandatory 21-day quarantine,” he said.