THE High Court on Tuesday 14 April 2020 ordered government to provide all frontline health practitioners with personal protective equipment (PPE) to protect them from the deadly coronavirus as they execute their duties and to adequately equip public hospitals with enough supportive medication and help curb the spread of the epidemic.
High Court Judges Justice Joseph Musakwa and Justice Owen Tagu ordered all frontline health practitioners working at public health facilities in Zimbabwe or deployed to trace contacts exposed by infected people, to be provided with adequate PPE and for sufficient testing kits to be deployed at all designated public hospitals, airports and ports of entry.
The determination by Justice Musakwa and Justice Tagu came after Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights (ZADHR) represented by Andrew Makoni and Jeremiah Bamu of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights filed an urgent chamber application at the High Court on Sunday 5 April 2020 protesting against the risk of contracting coronavirus (COVID-19) because government had not put in place measures to ensure that health practitioners across the country, who include nurses, nurse aides and pharmacists among others are adequately protected against the deadly epidemic.
In a consent order agreed to by lawyers representing ZADHR and Health and Child Care Minister Obadiah Moyo, Finance and Economic Development Minister Mthuli Ncube and Transport and Economic Development Minister Joel Biggie Matiza, who were listed as respondents in the application, the parties agreed that government should ensure that adequate measures are put in place to prevent, contain and treat the incidence of coronavirus and to establish and appropriately equip quarantine and isolation facilities in all provinces, district hospitals and at the designated airports and ports of entry.
Justice Musakwa and Tagu also ordered that all frontline health practitioners working at public health facilities in Zimbabwe or deployed to trace contacts exposed by infected people should be provided with adequate PPE while sufficient testing kits should be deployed at all designated public hospitals, airports and ports of entry.
The High Court also ordered that extensive screening and testing should be carried out, including mobile or door to door testing in order to account for asymptomatic carriers while all health practitioners and personnel at the frontline should be regularly screened and tested for coronavirus.
Justice Musakwa and Justice Tagu said more laboratories should be established and equipped to test highly infectious diseases such as coronavirus in every province to increase the turnaround time for tests.
The judges also ruled that personnel responding to the coronavirus pandemic including drivers and their assistants, security personnel and essential services employees be regularly screened and tested while authorised Zimbabwe United Passenger Company buses, omnibuses and other passenger service vehicles operated by or on behalf of the Public Service Association, the Police Service, the Defence Forces and the Civil Protection Authorities and commuter omnibuses and other passenger service vehicles operated or chartered by local authorities for the carriage of staff for essential services, the carriage of sick persons to hospitals and other health care, be disinfected upon arrival and departure at each destination.
Justice Musakwa and Justice Tagu said frontline health practitioners should be adequately trained on how to handle the coronavirus epidemic and protect themselves from the risk of contamination while clear guidelines should be provided to the public on the implementation of the social distance principle especially in crowded suburbs.
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