HARARE, March 19 (Xinhua) -- The Chinese Embassy on Thursday launched the rehabilitation project for Zimbabwe's main coronavirus isolation and treatment facility in Harare, as the Asian nation steps up assistance to help the southern African nation combat COVID-19.
Zimbabwe has not recorded any confirmed case of the virus but has escalated its national preparedness and response to stem the spread of the virus into the country.
Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Tuesday declared the epidemic a national disaster, and banned all public gatherings for the next 60 days to minimize the spread of COVID-19.
On Thursday, he also launched the country's preparedness and response plan against COVID-19.
The national plan has a budget of 26.4 million U.S. dollars and will enable the country to have an integrated and coordinated management strategy focusing on prevention of COVID-19 and mitigating the severity of its impact.
As part of efforts to strengthen Zimbabwe's capacity to handle the virus, the Chinese business community, under the guidance and coordination of the Chinese embassy, mobilized resources to revamp Wilkins Hospital in Harare which has been designated as the country's main isolation and treatment facility for COVID-19.
Rehabilitation work started last week and is expected to be completed in a record 10 days. Part of the upgrading work includes sprucing up the hospital's dilapidated infrastructure and adding of previously unavailable intensive care beds.
Speaking at the launch ceremony, Chinese ambassador Guo Shaochun said China was committed to working closely with Zimbabwe to fight COVID-19, which is gaining ground in Africa.
He said the peak of the epidemic was now over in China after the country implemented swift, decisive, and scientific measures to contain the highly contagious virus.
"As a good friend and brother, China has been working closely with Zimbabwe from the very onset to keep the country safe from the virus.
"At this testing moment for Zimbabwe, the Chinese government, business community, academia and people from all walks of life are eager to assist Zimbabwe," he said.
He said apart from knowledge sharing and transfer of skills to Zimbabwean health personnel on managing the virus, China was also mobilizing donations of various goods and equipment to help the country fight the virus. The donations were expected in the country soon, he said.
Zimbabwean health minister Obadiah Moyo thanked China for upgrading the hospital, saying the assistance will help boost the country's capacity to deal with the virus.
"We want to compliment the Chinese government for their scientific approach in solving the COVID-19," said Moyo, "They have been working with us, making sure that if the virus does come to Zimbabwe we will have the opportunity to be able to fight it quicker and be able to be on top of the situation."
Harare City Council deputy mayor Enock Mupamawonde expressed the council's gratitude for the rehabilitation work, which he said should jolt the nation to take more practical measures as it prepares to fight the epidemic.