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Public assembly banned in Zimbabwe capital amid cholera outbreak

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Authorities in Zimbabwe’s capital, Harare, banned public gatherings as part of efforts to contain a cholera outbreak that has killed 21 people over the past week.

In a statement issued on Wednesday, Zimbabwe Republic Police spokeswoman Charity Charamba asked residents to “take heed” of the ruling, which came after health officials identified more than 3,000 suspected cases of the waterborne disease.

“The government has declared the cholera outbreak in Harare a state of emergency, meaning that it is also a threat to human security,” Charamba said.

Outbreaks of cholera occur regularly in Zimbabwe because of dilapidated water and sanitation facilities. Informal housing areas without running water have mushroomed and basic infrastructure has collapsed after years of neglect.

Examination of water samples from some wells and boreholes in Harare, home to swaths of slum-like housing, tested positive for contamination with the disease.

On Tuesday, Health Minister Obadiah Moyo declared a state of emergency in the city. “The number of cases are growing by the day,” he said, adding the outbreak was caused by “blocked sewers”.

Preventable disease

Cholera, which can kill within hours if untreated, is caused by the consumption of food or water contaminated with the bacterium Vibrio cholerae.

According to the World Health Organization, it is “easily treatable” and even preventable if there is “universal access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation”.

More than 4,000 people were killed by the disease during an outbreak in Zimbabwe a decade ago.

Newly installed President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who has pledged to revive Zimbabwe’s ailing economy and improve public services, said officials were working to “contain and overcome” the most recent outbreak.

“I urge all residents of affected areas to exercise extra care with their hygiene & follow the instructions of the authorities,” Mnangagwa said in a Twitter post on Wednesday.

‘No lessons learned’

Under former leader Robert Mugabe, who was in power from Zimbabwe’s independence in 1980 until being removed from office by the military late last year, corruption and economic mismanagement were endemic.

The United Nations Human Development Index – which measures health, education and economic performance – ranks Zimbabwe 154 out of 188 countries.

Amnesty International said the country’s most recent outbreak of cholera was a consequence of its “failure to invest in and manage both its basic water and sanitation infrastructure and its healthcare system”.

“It is appalling that in 2018 people are still dying of such a preventable disease,” Jessia Pwiti, Amnesty’s executive director for Zimbabwe, said in a statement on Wednesday.

“No lessons were learned from the 2008 epidemic and the outbreak and deaths we’re seeing now is symptomatic of a still broken-down sanitation infrastructure and poor sewer management, worsened by a shortage of drugs and medical supplies,” she added.

Last month, 47 African countries committed to ending cholera outbreaks by 2030 at a WHO Regional Committee for Africa summit in Senegal’s capital, Dakar.

“Cholera is a symbol of inequity. It’s an ancient disease, which has been eliminated in many parts of the world. Every death from cholera is preventable,” Matshidiso Moeti, WHO director for Africa, said.

In 2017, more than 150,000 cholera cases were reported in 17 countries throughout Africa, according to the WHO.

AL JAZEERA

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HEALTH

Perence Shiri, Zimbabwe Agriculture Minister Dies

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Zimbabwe’s agriculture minister Perence Shiri, a retired general who helped plot the ouster of Robert Mugabe in a 2017 coup, has died, President Emmerson Mnangagwa said on Wednesday.

Perence Shiri, who commanded the air force for 25 years until he joined the government in 2017, was admitted to hospital on Tuesday, two government sources said. He died in the early hours of Wednesday.

“Shiri was a true patriot, who devoted his life to the liberation, independence and service of his country,” Mnangagwa said in a statement. He did not say how Shiri died.

But domestic media said Shiri, 65, succumbed to complications from the respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus, which has infected 2,817 and killed 40 in Zimbabwe.

A liberation war veteran,Perrence Shiri had a chequered past. He commanded the army’s Fifth Brigade unit that carried out the 1980s massacres of thousands of civilians in western Zimbabwe as the government sought to quell an insurgency.

The army massacres, known as ‘Gukurahundi’, a Shona term meaning the ‘early rain that washes away the chaff’, remain a sore point for the people of the Matabeleland region, many of whom demand justice and reparations.

The main opposition Movement for Democratic Change accused Perence Shiri of being among the security chiefs who organised violence against its members after Mugabe lost the first round of the presidential vote in 2008.Reuters

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HEALTH

US buys nearly all of Gilead’s Covid-19 drug Remdesivir

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Remdesivir Covid 19

The US is buying nearly all the next three months’ projected production of Covid-19 treatment Remdesivir from US manufacturer Gilead.

The US health department announced on Tuesday it had agreed to buy 500,000 doses for use in American hospitals. Tests suggest Remdesivir cuts recovery times, though it is not yet clear if it improves survival rates.

Gilead did sign a licensing deal in May for production outside the US but it is still in its early stages.

“President Trump has struck an amazing deal to ensure Americans have access to the first authorised therapeutic for Covid-19,” Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said in a statement. A course of treatment in the US will cost $2,340 (£1,900).

Nine companies can make the drug under licence outside the US for distribution in 127 mostly poorer countries, and the cost is lower. But the project is still in its early stages.

Additional quantities are being manufactured for use in clinical trials. But critics say the US move to buy up so much stock from Gilead itself undermines international co-operation on COVID, given that other countries have taken part in trials of Remdesivir, originally an anti-viral against Ebola.

“The trial that gave the result that allowed Remdesivir to sell their drug wasn’t just done in the US. There were patients participating through other European countries, in the UK as well, and internationally, Mexico and other places,” Oxford University’s Prof Peter Horby told BBC Radio 4.

He said the move also had implications for any possible future vaccine, with the need for “a much stronger framework if we are going to develop these things and they’re going to be used for national emergencies”.

Senior Sussex University lecturer, Ohid Yaqub, said: “It so clearly signals an unwillingness to co-operate with other countries and the chilling effect this has on international agreements about intellectual property rights.”Some in the US have criticised the purchase price, as taxpayer money had helped fund Remdesivir’s development.BBC

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HEALTH

17 new Zimbabwe Covid-19 cases confirmed

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Zimbabwe Covid 19

Seventeen new cases of Covid-19 in Zimbabwe, a majority of which are from quarantine facilities were reported yesterday bringing the total number of cases to 591.

From the cases confirmed yesterday, 13 involved returnees from South Africa, one from Botswana while three were local transmissions. The Ministry of Health and Child Care daily update shows that one of the cases confirmed as a local transmission had to contact with a known confirmed case.

Investigations are, however, underway to establish the source of infection for the two other local transmissions. Cases of recoveries also continue to increase with the latest statistics from the update standing at 162, leaving the country with 421 active COVID 19 cases.

The latest recoveries were reported from Mashonaland East (3), Mashonaland Central (2), Bulawayo (2), Matabeleland North (2), Mashonaland West (1) and Manicaland (1). The number of people who have died from the virus remains at seven.

“To date, the total number of confirmed cases is 591, recovered 162, active cases, 422 and seven deaths since the onset of the outbreak on 20 March 2020,” reads part of the update.

Zimbabwe has so far conducted 67 755 tests for Covid-19 from which, 30 711 were diagnostic tests while the remaining were rapid tests done for screening purposes. The Herald

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