Zimbabwe’s Covid-19 cases have gone past 1,000 with a sharp increase in local transmissions.

The health and childcare ministry on Monday said positive cases stood at 1,034. Of the 49 new cases, 28 are returnees from South Africa and 21 are local transmissions.

One death was recorded on Monday, pushing the tally to 19. There are 343 recoveries.

Reacting to the latest figures, Zanu-PF legislator Justice Mayor Wadyajena said it was time for President Emmerson Mnangagwa to make “unpopular decisions”, such as banning sales of alcohol and cigarettes “because we are too poor to take chances”.

With Zimbabwe struggling to stay afloat, billionaire Strive Masiyiwa’s Econet Global has embarked on a free Covid-19 test drive for anyone who suspects they could have the coronavirus.

The initiative coincided with the European Union’s (EU) grant of $7.33m towards the Covid-19 fight.

“In view of the current rising epicurve which shows daily new Covid-19 positive cases, this timely support is appropriate to improve ongoing activities, which are part of an urgent response to shared priorities,” said Timo Olkkonen, the EU ambassador to Zimbabwe.

Health minister Obadiah Moyo was fired last week over graft allegations involving Covid-19 supplies.

Doctors and nurses are on strike and the few remaining nurses in state hospitals who test positive for Covid-19 are sent for 14-day self-quarantine.

Zimbabwe’s figures are among the lowest in the Southern African Development Community, falling behind South Africa (287,796), Malawi (2,364), Zambia (1,895), Swaziland (1,351) and Mozambique (1,167).

Health experts said there could be unrecorded cases because of the country’s poor capacity to conduct tests, and there are people who sneak into the country from Mozambique, SA and Botswana, bypassing the mandatory state quarantine process.