Are Covid-19 local transmissions fueled by people smuggling groceries in vehicles repatriating deceased people into the country?

The Claim: Zimbabweans are being exposed to Covid-19 through groceries that are being smuggled into the country by people transporting deceased persons
The Verdict: claim verdict

SOURCE: On 23 July 2020 the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services, Nick Mangwana tweeted, “The smuggling of goods hidden as contraband in a coffin carrying the remains of a Covid-19 is a concern. The people that handle or eat such goods are being exposed to the virus. One never knows how prevalent the practice is but this may explain some local transmission.”

Background

The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services, Nick Mangwana on his tweet attached a video which captured burial ceremony of two Ndlovu sisters from Maphili village in Tsholotsho who reportedly succumbed to Covid-19 in South Africa.

Speaking to CITE, John Ndlovu a brother to the two deceased persons said the family did not smuggle any groceries, the bags that are shown in the video had personas belongings of the two deceased sisters who passed away in South Africa.

“Our two sisters died due to Covid-19 and we followed the proper burial instructions,” said Ndlovu

“Kings and Queens funeral parlour is the one that was responsible for repatriating the two bodies. I am the one who accompanied the bodies to the border. I returned at the border when the bodies proceeded to Zimbabwe for burial in Maphili, Tsholotsho under Chief Matupula.

“I couldn’t put my sisters’ clothes in black plastic bags, so I bought those black bags they were 4 or 5. I had advised the driver to tell relatives at home not to bury those clothes as they were going to be disinfected. The video in question shows people removing the bags, it’s clothes and not groceries,” he said.

Ndlovu added that the provincial Covid-19 task force team was responsible for the burial service.

“The Covid-19 task force team was also present, the process went according to Covid-19 burial regulations. We are just against the fact that it being reported that those bags had groceries, it’s not groceries,” he said.

An official from Kings and Queens Funeral Services Bulawayo office said it is not policy to put groceries inside the trailer that is used to transport deceased people.

“As a parlour we don’t allow that, the coffin will be in the trailer, and if there are any groceries they are given to the driver and he puts them in the vehicle,” the official said.

Ministry of Health and Child Care, acting secretary Dr Gibson Mhlanga said if indeed this was the case it could explain some of the local transmissions.

“I have also seen images on social media. I am not sure of the authenticity or timelines of those videos,” said Dr Mhlanga.

“If indeed that is happening it is dangerous and could explain some of the local transmission cases being reported.”

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