Government understating Covid-19 deaths as official counts fail to capture number of Zimbabweans dying in pandemic

Zimbabwe’s two major funeral service providers – Nyaradzo and Doves – have since January 1 2021 been ferrying a combined 30 Covid-19 bodies per day to various places of burial in figures that reveal that Government is understating the number of people succumbing to the deadly virus, Zim Morning Post has established.

The Health ministry on Sunday announced that as at 10 January 2021, Zimbabwe had 21 477 confirmed cases, including 12 582 recoveries and 507 deaths – 24 deaths being recorded in the last 24 hours.

As at January 9, the ministry reported 15 deaths for the corresponding 24 hours and 22 deaths countrywide on January 8.

However, investigations by Zim Morning Post which incorporated the schedules of Nyaradzo and Doves show that coronavirus deaths are being recorded in terrifying numbers with a higher death toll of what is being officially reported.

Nyaradzo Funeral Services between January 1 and January 10, at their Harare and Chitungwiza branches alone, had more than 120 corpses whose cause of death was Covid-19.

The statistics, for Nyaradzo alone, are in contrast of those provided by the Ministry of Health who announced that between January 1 and January 10 about 144 people nationally succumbed to Covid-19.

“The statistic being announced by the ministry of Health are not a true reflection of what is on the ground,” said an insider at Harare funeral parlour.

“Nyaradzo, has been burying on average 20 bodies from Harare alone. Last week they had to move bodies from their Herbert Chitepo branch to Chitungwiza,” the source said.

“Unless the figures being given by the Ministry are from Harare only then that would make sense,” said the source.

On January 9, Government announced that nationally 15 people succumbed to Covid-19 while the Harare Nyaradzo schedule shows that at their Herbert Chitepo and Chitungwiza branches, they had 18 bodies whose cause of death was Covid-19.

On January 10, Government said nationally Zimbabwe recorded 24 deaths while the Nyaradzo Harare schedule shows that it had 15 bodies due to Covid-19.

Zim Morning Post is still collating data from other funeral service providers in areas outside Harare to ascertain a closer death toll count.

Another source said at Doves, the numbers of the deceased due to Covid-19 were “abnormal with dozens of bodies attributed to Covid-19 passing through the Harare Doves Funeral Parlour since January 1 2021.”

Public health experts say that an accurate count of deaths is an essential tool to understand a disease outbreak as it unfolds and to relay interventions to hotspots.

Chief Co-ordinator of the national response to the Covid-19 pandemic in the Office of the President and Cabinet, Dr Agnes Mahomva, could not readily comment on the matter.

She told Zim Morning Post to contact her later as she was held up in meetings.

On Sunday Government banned intercity burials to curtail the spread of the Covid-19.

The Ministry of Health and Child Care superintended by Vice President Constantino Chiwenga ordered the Zimbabwe Republic Police to enforce the imposed restrictions forthwith.

The restrictions entail that a body will now be buried in the town or city where the death has occurred.

Police has been directed to clear bodies straight from funeral parlour to burial site.

This development means that no funeral wake will be held at home and the number of mourners remain limited at 30.

In a statement on Sunday night national police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi said the new measures ordered by the Ministry of Health and Child Care, will see police only clearing body movements for burial straight from a funeral parlour/hospital mortuary to the burial site.

“No body viewing will be allowed and bodies will not be taken home,” he said.

“The public is implored to keep a distance as the body is lowered into the grave by either city health or funeral parlour officials. The grave site will be disinfected before burial.”

“Police commanders in all provinces have been advised to ensure that the Government’s directive is complied with. The public is accordingly informed of this important message,” Nyathi added.