Three more people from Bulawayo have succumbed to Covid-19, pushing the death toll in Zimbabwe to 23.
Two died at home before they were tested for the virus, and a third died in hospital, the ministry said without providing further information.
The month of July – with 16 deaths so far – has become the deadliest month since the respiratory illness landed in the country on March 20.
The ministry reported 273 new cases, 260 of them local transmissions. It said 231 of the cases were from Bulawayo, but covered a period of seven days.
The test lab at Mpilo Central Hospital went for days without vital testing consumables, causing a build-up of specimens.
“Due to a backlog of sample processing at the National Tuberculosis Reference Laboratory (NTBRL), Bulawayo Province has reported 231 cases today which were collected over the last seven days but were not processed. The cases will be distributed in the epi-curve according to dates the samples were collected,” the ministry said in a statement.
Thirty new recoveries were reported, taking the number of recovered patients to 425.
For many months, health officials in Zimbabwe blamed a spike in new cases on returning residents, but local transmissions are increasing rapidly.
Official figures show that local transmissions now account for 606 cases, compared with 756 for returning residents.
Zimbabwe imposed a lockdown on March 30 to slow the spread of the virus, but the measures were eased owing to economic pressures.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Wednesday said they were considering re-imposing tougher restrictions on movement, which are likely to target the major cities of Harare and Bulawayo.
Nurses and doctors are on strike in Zimbabwe’s public hospitals, and the spike in new cases could cause a major health crisis.