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Zimbabwe's foreign minister dies of COVID-19 amid resurgence

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FILE In this Jan, 12, 2020 file photo, Zimbabwe's Foreign Minister Sibusiso Moyo in Harare, Zimbabwe. Sibusiso Moyo, who gained prominence in 2017 as the military general who announced the coup against then-president Robert Mugabe on television, has died from COVID-19, the government announced Wednesday, Jan 20,2021. (AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi/File)

HARARE – Zimbabwe’s Foreign Minister Sibusiso Moyo, who gained prominence in 2017 as the military general who announced the coup against then-president Robert Mugabe on television, has died from COVID-19, the government announced Wednesday. He was 61.

Moyo, previously little known to the public, became the face of the coup when he announced that the military had placed Mugabe under house arrest as the military's armored vehicles rolled into the capital, Harare. The coup ended Mugabe's 37-year rule in Zimbabwe and he later died in Sept. 2019.

Moyo was appointed foreign affairs minister after President Emerson Mnangagwa took power with military backing.

Moyo “succumbed to COVID-19 at a local hospital” on Wednesday, Mnangagwa’s spokesman George Charamba said in a statement.

Zimbabwe is experiencing a resurgence of the disease, with record numbers of daily confirmed cases and deaths.

Mnangagwa is on Thursday set to bury another Cabinet minister, Ellen Gwaradzimba, who died from COVID-19 last week.

Opposition spokeswoman Fadzayi Mahere says she has tested positive for COVID-19 after being released from prison. She was freed after seven days of detention on Monday.

Jailed journalist Hopewell Chin’ono and other inmates have previously raised concern over crowded prison conditions, which they said encourages COVID-19 transmission among inmates and jail guards.

Harare mayor and opposition official, Jacob Mafume, released from jail this week after a month-long detention, is in isolation after his lawyers said three of his cellmates had died from COVID-19.

Zimbabwe, like many other African countries, initially recorded low numbers of COVID-19 but has recently experienced a spike in cases. There are fears that a new, more infectious variant of the virus arrived from South Africa when scores of thousands of Zimbabweans living in South Africa returned home for the holiday season.

The government has said it is in the process of conducting genetic sequencing to confirm the presence of the variant.

Zimbabwe, whose once robust public health system has deteriorated, has recorded 28,675 cases and 825 deaths on Jan.19, up from the slightly more than 10,000 cases and 277 deaths at the beginning of December, according to government figures.

The 7-day rolling average of daily deaths in Zimbabwe has risen over the past two weeks from 0.06 deaths per 100,000 people on Jan. 5 to 0.26 deaths per 100,000 people on Jan. 19, according to Johns Hopkins University.

The southern African country has not yet received any vaccines. The government has said it expects to get some vaccines through the international COVAX initiative, but it does not have a firm date on when they will be delivered.