Chinese medical workers fight COVID-19 head-on in Zimbabwe

By:From:English Edition of | Updated: 2020-Apr-21 17:26
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HARARE, April 17 (Xinhua) -- Jiang Zhichao, head of the 17th Chinese medical team to Zimbabwe, had imagined many possibilities of public heath issues when he arrived in the country last year. But he has never expected to confront anything like the novel coronavirus disease, which has led to more than 146,000 deaths worldwide.

In Zimbabwe, the number of COVID-19 cases has risen to 24 after a new case was recorded in Harare on Thursday, the country's Ministry of Health and Child Care said Friday morning. The tally included two recoveries and three deaths.

A Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practitioner in a hospital in central China's Hunan Province, Jiang has been keen to promote and practice TCM overseas. Last year, he signed up for the medical team dispatched to Africa.

Zimbabweans, thousands of miles away, seemed unaffected by the COVID-19 outbreak in China in February and early March, when few people on the street wore masks, including doctors and nurses. It was not until March 20, when the authorities announced the first confirmed case of COVID-19, that the citizens began to realize the virus was hitting every corner of the world, including their country, Jiang said.

"The outbreak came as a big surprise to us, since we are planning to give full play to our know-how in the African country," said Jiang, who arrived in Zimbabwe along with nine other members in June.

The Zimbabwean government has taken a series of measures to contain the disease, including declaring a lockdown for 21 days on March 30. With the cases rising, the Zimbabwean government has also stepped up screening and diagnostic testing in all provinces.

As health professionals, the Chinese medical team members have prepared for rainy days in advance, Jiang said. In late January, the team leader started to record the temperature of the team members every day. Apart from going to and from the hospital where they work, the team members are required not to go out or participate in non-essential gatherings.

In order to help with a possible outbreak in Zimbabwe, Jiang said, the team received remote training on tackling COVID-19 provided by national and provincial health authorities in China, which has consolidated their knowledge and enhanced their prevention and control capability.

In addition to striving to implement their initial plans of medical service, Jiang led the team to focus on fighting COVID-19.

At the invitation of Zimbabwe's Ministry of Health and Child Care, Jiang Yuandong, a member of the Chinese medical team in Zimbabwe, has trained more than 140 health workers and introduced China's experience in containing the outbreak since last month. He also gave a lecture to Zimbabwe's health officials and medical personnel to improve their understanding of the disease.

Isaac Phiri, deputy director for epidemiology and disease control at the Ministry of Health and Child Care, took part in a video conference on the exchange of anti-epidemic experience between Chinese experts and their African counterparts, which was organized by China in March.

Phiri spoke highly of the training and experience sharing carried out by the Chinese medical team and the Chinese authorities, saying the events showed the country what to do and how to do in tackling COVID-19.

Zimbabwe Nurses Association President Enock Dongo hailed China for providing medical assistance to Zimbabwe in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. Dongo told Xinhua recently that the assistance, including the revamping of the country's main isolation and treatment center, and medical equipment and supplies, had improved the medical personnel's capacity to respond to the pandemic as well as their working environment.

Chinese enterprises, working under the guidance and coordination of the Chinese Embassy in Zimbabwe, mobilized funds and upgraded Wilkins Hospital in Harare which has been designated as the country's main isolation and treatment facility for COVID-19 patients under the management of Harare City Council.

The council's health director Prosper Chonzi told Xinhua that the ergonomics of Wilkins Hospital had vastly improved following the renovation by the Chinese. The renovation work entailed repainting and habilitation of ablution facilities and the plumbing system.

The medical team was responsible for providing the list of equipment for the ICU upgrading, the amount and list of donated medicines and the list of personal protective equipment. "We are fully aware of the urgency of the assignment," the team leader said, adding they raced against time and within one day, they worked out the lists with the help from the authorities in China.

The hospital's upgrading was finished at the end of March thanks to the Chinese efforts. Apart from supplies from the Chinese government and foundations, the Chinese business community has halso donated medical equipment to the country.

"At the next stage, all the members of the medical team are ready to go to the clinic to fight the epidemic," the team leader said.

"After the emergency medical equipment and medicines arrive in Harare, we will train the medical staff of Zimbabwe and instruct them to make better use of the medical equipment and Chinese and western medicines donated by China."

According to China's National Health Commission, there are almost 1,000 Chinese medical personnel working in Africa on a long-term and the agency has directed them to help local health organizations stem the spread of the coronavirus.

China will continue to send medical teams to relevant African countries, continue to provide them with their needed anti-epidemic materials as much as possible, and support African countries and people in their fight against the epidemic, Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian said Friday.

Two teams of medical experts sent by the Chinese government arrived in Ethiopia and Burkina Faso on Thursday.