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Zimbabwe billionaire offers health workers support in coronavirus fight

HARARE, March 27 (Reuters) - A Zimbabwean billionaire has offered health workers new support, including life insurance and cash, after nurses and some doctors walked out over a lack of protective clothing for treating people with coronavirus.

Zimbabwe, whose public hospitals are crippled by shortages of medicines and equipment, has recorded one death from coronavirus and five cases, although the opposition and government critics say authorities are under-reporting figures.

The government denies this allegation and President Emmerson Mnangagwa has encouraged Zimbabweans to limit their movements to curb the spread of coronavirus in the country.

Ecosure, the insurance arm of Cassava Smartech Zimbabwe Ltd and part of Strive Masiwiya’s Econet group, said it would offer health and life insurance worth $3,200 to each nurse and doctor, a daily cash allowance if they were hospitalised while on duty, as well as free transport to work for a year.

The insurer said in a statement on Friday it was “equipping frontline medical staff with protective personal equipment” as the country deals with the coronavirus outbreak.

Government doctors ended a three-month strike in January after Masiyiwa offered them financial support.

Nurses at Zimbabwe’s state hospitals and some doctors walked out on Wednesday, saying the government had failed to respond to their demands for protective equipment.

Zimbabwean police dispersed street vendors in central Harare on Friday in a bid to decongest the city. (Reporting by MacDonald Dzirutwe; Editing by Alexander Smith)

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