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Councillor Quarantines in a Car As Gwanda Battles Shortage of Isolation Centres

Shortage of isolation space at Gwanda Provincial Hospital has forced a councillor to self-isolate in his car after testing COVID-19 positive. Image by Flickr

BY AMANDA NCUBE | @The_CBNews | This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. | DEC 8, 2020

A community leader in Gwanda is living in his car, to avoid spreading COVID-19 to his family, recent developments in the town are a testimony that the pandemic is far from over.

GWANDA (The Citizen Bulletin) – Councillor Ntuthuko Ndebele sleeps in his car and spends most of his day in the vehicle. This is his new lifestyle of self isolation after testing positive to COVID-19.

There's limited space in the house for him to have his own room.

Ndebele has had to put on hold his duties as a father figure and bread winner and also duties of serving the community in order to ensure his full recovery and that he does not spread the respiratory disease. He tested for COVID-19 at Phakama Clinic in Gwanda on Friday 20 November, and received his results on Sunday 22 November.

“When I received the news I was really terrified and feared that my family might have also contracted the virus.”
Ntuthuko Ndebele, Gwanda councillor

The only time he enters his house is when he has to use the ablution facility and immediately after he is done his family has to disinfect the room. His family serves him food in the car.

“Life has become difficult for me since I tested positive for coronavirus. I’m self employed and I sustain my family through engaging in mining activities but at the moment all is on hold as I can’t move around. As a councillor there are a number of development initiatives that need my attention but I have also placed them on hold,” says Ndebele.

He was advised to visit Phakama Clinic on Friday 20 November for testing after a fellow councillor had tested positive for COVID-19. Ndebele says after being given the outcome of the results medical staff advised him to self isolate at home as there was limited space at the isolation centre and his condition was not severe.

For the days that he has been under self isolation medical staff from Phakama Clinic have been visiting Ndebele on a daily basis to check on his condition which he says has been improving.

“I wasn’t aware that I was positive as I wasn’t really ill. I was just experiencing a sore throat and painful muscles but I’m almost healed now. I have been using home remedies to contain my situation such as steaming, drinking lemon water and eating garlic.”
Councillor Ntuthuko Ndebele

As soon as I received my results my family also started taking this medication as a precautionary measure although none of them are ill,” he says.

Gwanda Town just like most parts of the country has recorded an increase in COVID-19 cases. The town has recorded over 60 cases within a space of less than three weeks.

This has led to a shortage of isolation space as the town is relying on one isolation centre housed at the Gwanda Provincial Hospital which can only accommodate 16 people.

Despite an increase in the number of COVID-19 cases Gwanda town still relies on one isolation centre. Image by CITE

Gwanda Provincial Hospital acting medical superintendent, Dr Blessed Gwarimbo says they have resorted to discharging patients to self isolate at home even though their conditions require them to be housed at the isolation centre. An isolation centre at Phakama Clinic which can accommodate 20 people is still incomplete.

“We first interview the patients to find out who they stay with and to establish whether their living conditions are conducive for them to self isolate. Our surveillance team makes regular follow ups on these people especially those who are symptomatic,” says Dr Gwarimbo.

Most of the positive cases which have been recorded in the town are symptomatic which meant that they were highly contagious and likely to spread the virus.

Dr Gwarimbo says due to resource challenges it is impossible for every COVID-19 patient to be accommodated at the isolation centre but they also had to be responsible residents and ensure they adhered to guidelines and stay away from other people in order to avoid spreading the virus.

While medical staff at health facilities in Gwanda Town are operating with adequate Personal Protective Clothing (PPEs) Dr Gwarimbo is unsure how long it will last since cases continue to increase.

A nurse at the Gwanda Provincial Hospital who preferred anonymity says it has now become terrifying to operate within an environment that has such an upsurge of COVID-19 cases. She says what is more terrifying is that no one knows how severe the condition will get.

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“In Gwanda we have never handled so many cases of COVID-19. During the previous levels of the lockdown we were hearing that other towns and cities were recording high numbers of the pandemic but this time around we are also affected which is really scary. The truth is that we don’t have the capacity to handle many cases due to limited space and resources.”

“The last time we had an upsurge of cases, though it wasn’t to this magnitude medical staff at the hospital were affected and we hope this time around it won’t happen. We are on high alert as the staff,” says the nurse.

Officials have identified lack of compliance to COVID-19 regulations as one of the causes of this spike in cases. People have been urged to adhere to COVID-19 regulations to ensure their own safety.

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