NINETEEN nurses, who work in the same ward at the United Bulawayo Hospital (UBH), tested positive for COVID-19 after admitting several patients infected by the virus.

Bulawayo provincial medical director Maphios Siamuchembu said the hospital was still to ascertain which COVID-19  variant infected the nurses.

The new Omicron variant of COVID-19 was discovered in South Africa and Botswana recently.

It has also been detected in Zimbabwe.

“About 19 members of staff tested positive at UBH. We are doing the standard antigen COVID-19 tests, and we haven’t done genetic sequencing to identify the Omicron variant.

“In short we are not sure which variant we are dealing with,” Siamuchembu said.

“All people are screened and sanitised at the hospital entrance.

“All admitted patients are sent to Arundel COVID-19 hospital, while all symptomatic staff members are tested.

“We have procured personal protective equipment for staff members.’

Although the Omicron variant is said to be very mild, the variant is reportedly spreading fast in terms of infections.

The country recorded 4 996 new COVID-19 infections on Wednesday, and two deaths. Of the 4 996 new infections, Bulawayo recorded 338.

The COVID-19 scare at UBH comes at a time when an influenza outbreak has hit Bulawayo.

Siamuchembu said Bulawayo had been hit by the COVID fourth wave and urged people to get vaccinated.

“The number of COVID-19 cases is increasing in Bulawayo.

“We are effectively in the fourth wave. Vaccination is the number one tool we have to fight the pandemic,” he said.

“We should continue exercising hand hygiene, physical distancing and masking up properly. Residents need to be wary of people coming from outside the country.

“They should make sure such people are coming from the appropriate quarantine or isolation centres.

“If you are symptomatic please go to the nearest health facility for testing and treatment.”

Several institutions, including Parliament, the courts, schools and non-governmental organisations were forced to close after they recorded a surge in COVID-19 infections.