Zimbabwe reported its highest daily increase in Covid-19 cases after 98 people tested positive on Wednesday, pushing the national case total to 885.
The ministry of health said 47 of the new cases were local transmissions, 43 of whom were in contact with known active cases. The others were returnees from South Africa, Swaziland and Botswana.
The previous highest daily increase was reported on May 27 when 76 people were found to have contracted the respiratory illness which has killed nine people in Zimbabwe since the first case was reported on March 20.
The health ministry said 51 of the 98 new cases were recorded in Bulawayo, which is battling outbreaks at its two major hospitals. The United Bulawayo Hospitals (UBH) reported on Wednesday that it had sent over 70 health workers home after 18 staff who came into contact with a positive patient were found to have contracted the virus.
At Mpilo Hospital, over 15 positive cases have been detected among doctors and nurses.
Government spokesman Ndavaningi Mangwana said the government could be forced to reintroduce tougher lockdown measures in Bulawayo and Harare to contain the recent surge in new cases.
“If there is any scaling up of containment measures, a more surgical approach is better. It means full scale lockdown should only apply to Harare and Bulawayo,” Mangwana tweeted on Wednesday, although government critics say the main reason for re-introducing a hard lockdown would be to stop planned opposition protests on July 31.
Zimbabwe first introduced a nationwide lockdown in March, but this has been eased and many businesses have been allowed to re-open.
Health experts say many Zimbabweans have been lulled into a false sense of security by the low death rate.
Meanwhile, the health ministry said 206 people had recovered to date, leaving 670 active cases.