At least 131 people have died and more than 135,000 infected in a malaria outbreak amid COVID-19 pandemic in Zimbabwe.

The  Ministry of Health announced on Saturday, the outbreak of malaria mostly in Manicaland, Masvingo and Mashonaland East.

“The cumulative figures of malaria are 135,585 and 131 deaths, a total of 201 malaria outbreaks have been reported throughout the country mostly from Manicaland, Masvingo and Mashonaland East. 90 outbreaks have been controlled,” said the Health Ministry.

Zimbabwe reduced malaria cases from 155 per 1,000 people to 22 per 1,000 between 2003 and 2013, because of strong government funding.

Close to 2 500 villagers in Uzumba, Maramba PFungwe tested positive to malaria in a single week, with cases now totalling 3 000.

Health experts predict the figures will continue to rise across the country, although the true figures may well be masked by families being unable to access clinics or failing to report cases.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned Zimbabwe that there is a risk of paying less attention to diseases such as malaria while fighting Covid-19.

“During the Covid-19 pandemic, the malaria community must remain committed to supporting the prevention of malaria infection, illness and death through preventive and case management services, while maintaining a safe environment for patients, clients and staff. Deaths due to malaria and its comorbidities (anaemia, undernutrition, etc) must continue to be prevented,” said a recent WHO report.

Zimbabwe extended its lockdown on Tuesday with two more weeks in a bid to curb covid-19. 25 positive cases have been recorded including three deaths.