A staggering 100 pupils have tested positive for Covid-19 at John Tallach Secondary School in Matabeleland North, dealing a body blow to the government’s decision to re-open schools in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic.
Health officials said 73 of the affected pupils were asymptomatic, while 27 of them had mild symptoms.
The school went into a lockdown last week after six pupils were found to have higher than normal temperature, before five subsequently tested positive for the virus.
Dr Munekayi Padingani, the acting provincial medical director for Matabeleland North said that tests were still ongoing, and the numbers could rise. The school has an enrolment of 670 pupils.
“The school is quarantined. No-one is going in or out. Classes are closed. We have put a satellite clinic inside the school and our staff are staying there to test and treat. We now have an isolation centre on site. We are putting the pupils in clusters – those who are positive are put in one room; the negative in another room; those who are sick but tested negative in another room and those who have been tested are put in another room while waiting for results,” Padingani said.
He added that they had shipped sufficient PPEs, medicines and other medical consumables to ensure that their makeshift clinic was well equipped.
Police are now enforcing the complete lockdown of the school, he said.
“We did our own investigations. You know in Bulawayo people are going to South Africa clandestinely and coming back. One of the students went there to bury his father illegally and came back. We’re not sure if it’s that student who brought the disease. The problem started when they opened for the Lower Sixth and Form 3 classes on October 26,” said Padingani.
“The day the school called us to come and check on the six cases, that’s when the Form 2s and 1s were coming. They had to be stopped, so they’re not at the school until this situation is contained.”
At least two teachers reportedly are infected with the virus.
Among the first five cases that were sent home, the entire family of one of the pupils tested positive.
“We are just speculating for now, looking at various scenarios, before we do a scientific investigation,” said Pandingani.
Teachers’ unions had opposed the opening of schools for the third term, warning of the scenario now prevailing at John Tallach.