BY SILAS NKALA
Traditional leaders in Matabeleland South’s Insiza district fear coronavirus cases will spike as villagers continue to gather in huge numbers for funerals despite lockdown restrictions.
Malindi Siwela, headman for ward 11, said health practitioners were not visible in the area to conscientise people about the Covid-19 pandemic, hence the complacency.
“My appeal is directed to the Health ministry,” Siwela said.
“We ask them to deploy health officials to visit us and conduct tests especially on those who would have passed on or those with symptoms so that we contain the spread of the disease.
“We have noticed that they concentrate their testing and response activities in towns and forget that there are people in rural areas.
“We have many ill people, who need to be tested to see if they are Covid-19 positive.
“This would assist in curbing the spread of the disease because people in rural areas have a habit of visiting each other at homes when one gets sick.
“So, if one is tested and found positive, restrictive measures on visiting the person will apply and this will prevent the spread.”
The traditional leader said most deaths in the area were being considered “sudden” yet these could be due to Covid-19.
Chief Bekezela Sibanda Sibasa also confirmed health officials were not visiting the area to test villagers for Covid-19.
“Many people live far from clinics and district hospitals, meaning that health practitioners should visit us. Even mobile testing is okay,” Chief Sibasa said.
He said more than 100 people were attending funerals instead of the 30 recommended by the government.
“People are dying and we are not supposed to be more than 30 at a funeral, but what happens here is that we will be more than 100 people,” Chief Sibasa said.
Godlwayo Community Development Trust director Nkululeko Tshuma appealed to local health officials to preside over burials at community level to ensure that Covid-19 protocols were adhered to.
A villager, Sibongile Sibanda, said most people cannot afford to pay the up to US$60 required for Covid-19 tests.
“We face a lot of danger in that we just get into contact with the deceased and their families without knowing whether the person would have died of Covid-19,” Sibanda said.
“What we have noticed is that most people, who die here do not go to hospitals or clinics fearing that they might catch Covid-19 there.
“Some would have come from South Africa and defaulted on HIV treatment.
“Some would be having other ailments and we do not even know if they have Covid-19 as well, leading to their death.”
Matabeleland South provincial medical director Ruth Chikodzore said every death that occurs in the country must be reported to the police.
“When a person dies, police must be notified and they take over the body,” Chikodzore said.
“For a burial order to be issued, a
postmortem must be done to certify the cause of death, and obviously it will come out if the person died of Covid-19.
“So it’s not possible that one can be buried without a postmortem report as long as the matter was reported to the police.
“On the testing of people in rural areas, people need to go to the nearest hospital if they suspect that they have Covid-19 and if they develop symptoms.
“This has been announced nationally.
“Even from a local point of view, there are village health workers, you notify them if you suspect yourself and they will take the matter to the clinic and health practitioners will come and test you where you are.”