Ebola worries hurting tourism

MASVINGO - Paul Chimedza, the Health and Child Care deputy minister, has warned that Zimbabwe risks losing business if authorities fail to contain “malicious information” surrounding the deadly Ebola disease.

Within hours of an Ebola scare in Harare, hotels in the resort town of Victoria Falls lost $1,5 million and suffered massive cancellations, the minister told delegates attending the ZimRights-organised Provincial People’s Conference in Masvingo yesterday.

The conference seeks to interrogate socio-economic and cultural rights which are measured against the new Constitution bill of rights and ZimAsset.

“The Ebola issue is not about David Parirenyatwa or Paul Chimedza; it is about us Zimbabweans,” Chimedza told delegates.

“Your government is fully prepared for Ebola and let me assure you; we are doing all we can to make sure that the disease does not find its way here. There is no Ebola and all suspected cases of Ebola have been proven to be untrue.”

Chimedza spoke as government proved this week that a suspected case of Ebola disease at the Wilkins Hospital in Harare was a case of panic as advanced medical tests proved it was malaria.

The hospital was temporarily shutdown last week on Thursday as a precautionary measure.

“We have a robust system that we are using to check Ebola and so far all the tests that have been carried out have proved those few cases were actually not what was being claimed,” Chimedza said.

“Zimbabweans must desist from joining those who are falsely spreading rumours of Ebola cases. The effects are hurting all of us. We should emulate South Africans who have joined their government in awareness and campaigns.

“We don’t want Ebola and be rest assured, we are working flat-out in terms of our campaigns and screening.

“We are now looking at improving the infrastructure consistent with handling such emergencies.”

Since the outbreak of Ebola in Liberia and Sierra Leone, there have been serious concerns about Zimbabwe’s preparedness to deal with the lethal disease.

Treasury has so far released a measly $132 000 for campaigns and awareness programmes.

This is against the $3,5 million needed by the Health and Child Care ministry to establish a decent Ebola treatment and prevention infrastructure.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has put the deaths of those killed by the Ebola virus in West Africa — mainly Liberia and Sierra Leone — at 4000, the same number that Zimbabwe recorded during the outbreak of cholera in 2008.

Both the United States, Europe and the far East have stepped up fundraising campaigns in a bid to halt the disease which has killed over 200 skilled personnel involved in treating patients in West Africa.

This is against warnings that Europe and the US were vulnerable to more cases of Ebola because of the high volumes of inbound air traffic.

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