"We need to protect ourselves the best way possible"

The Coronavirus reached Zimbabwe: Newlands Clinic took further safety measurements.  The health of our staff and patients is our top priority. Read more about the current situation at Newlands Clinic. Country Director Matthias Widmaier answered our questions.


Ruedi Lüthy Foundation: The Coronavirus is spreading in Zimbabwe. The government restricted the public life, closed the borders, and banned public gatherings of more than 50 people. How are people at Newlands Clinic handling the situation?
Matthias Widmaier: The people are suffering from hunger and are trying to cope with the collapsing economy. Furthermore, our patients are dealing with their HIV-infection, which is a heavy burden for most of them. Coronavirus does not seem to concern them as much as it should yet. But the tension is growing because the government is releasing more information every day. We need to stay calm. We are keeping a high safety standard to protect our staff and our patients the best way possible.

RLF: Masks, Hygiene-Dispenser, information pamphlets are omnipresent at Newlands Clinic for weeks by now. The new safety measures are going way further.
MW: That is right. As of Monday, 23th March, all patients must pass a screening test before entering the Newlands Clinic. Our staff is measuring temperature and asking questions about the patients' health state and other risks. Everyone who coughs or has a fever gets a mask and must see a doctor. If we suspect a corona-infection, we transfer the patient to the designated hospital in Harare. We are not equipped to treat patients infected with corona. We must keep the risk of infections as low as possible.

RLF: Are HIV positive patients more likely to get infected by the coronavirus? Are they part of the risk group?
MW: We do not know if HIV positive patients are developing more serious symptoms in comparison to non-HIV positive patients. There is not enough data on HIV positive patients infected by the coronavirus. Our medical staff is staying up to date so that they can inform our patients as much as possible. The more information delivered to our patients is better so that they can protect themselves from getting infected by the coronavirus.

RLF: The consequences of the corona epidemic in a country like Zimbabwe are unpredictable. How well prepared are you at Newlands Clinic?
MW: We are prepared the best we can under these circumstances. Our goal is to maintain HIV treatment for all our patients. Luckily, we can fall back on our doctors' vast knowledge and experience. We are monitoring the situation closely and adjusting the measures if needed daily.