The Sunday Mail
A NEW and second wave of the coronavirus — which is surging around the world and has hit countries such as the United States, the United Kingdom, Nigeria and neighbouring South Africa — appears to have landed on these shores, threatening thousands of Zimbabwean lives.
The strain has spread to Europe and North America, where concerted efforts are being made to contain it. The just-ended festive holidays appear to have opened floodgates of new infections with the Government concerned about a fresh wave of infections which are galloping by the day.
The country, had by yesterday, recorded 14 491 cases and 377 deaths, but the rate of infection has accelerated recently with more than 500 infections reported in two days. Zimbabweans have every reason to be worried judging by the resurgence in Covid-19-related deaths and a spike in hospitalisations around the country.
Among the high profile deaths resulting from the coronavirus are that of Dorothy Shamuyarira, the wife of former Cabinet minister and nationalist, Dr Nathan Shamuyarira, who died at Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals in Harare yesterday. Prominent businessman Worthwhile Mugabe succumbed to Covid-19 in the capital on Thursday, while Zanu PF European Union and United Kingdom chairperson, Cde Masimba Tawengwa, fell victim to the deadly virus on the same day.
The managing director of Lobel’s Bread, Heritage Mudiwa Nhende, also died of Covid-19 at a Harare hospital yesterday while the former chief executive officer of Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals, Dr Thomas Zigora, died of the same virus on Thursday. Opposition MDC-T vice president Dr Thokozani Khupe was admitted into a hospital in Bulawayo yesterday after testing positive for coronavirus on Wednesday. Gwanda Residents Association secretary-general and activist, Bekezela Maduma Fuzwayo died on Thursday from Covid-19 while the secretary-general of the Zimbabwe Union of Journalists, Foster Dongozi, succumbed to Covid-19 on Wednesday, December 23, 2020. Of particular concern is the fear that the mutant and contagious strain of the virus could have slipped through our border with South Africa and could soon wreak havoc with our population at a time when the Government is battling to procure a vaccine for the virus.
Thousands of Zimbabweans based in South Africa came back home to enjoy the Christmas and New Year holidays with their loved ones and the possibility of some of them infecting their countrymen with the deadly strain cannot be ruled out.
What should also worry authorities is the fact that the new strain does not discriminate according to age and has been known to affect even the young, purported to have strong immune systems. The next few weeks are going to be instructive as far as the new wave is concerned. Lack of adherence to Covid-19 regulations of social distancing, washing of hands, sanitising and wearing of masks might come back to haunt the country with experts predicting a sharp surge in new infections in the next two months.
The lackadaisical approach to the pandemic could spawn a national crisis with hospitals yesterday reporting a rise in admissions. There is a shortage of ventilators in Zimbabwe and a sharp rise in infections could result in increased fatalities as facilities fail to cope with patients. Already, some Zimbabweans were in panic mode yesterday and calling on the Government to introduce tougher measures such as those in place in South Africa in response to the new wave of infections.
Government responded by announcing a raft of measures (valid for 30 days) including a dusk to dawn curfew (6pm-6am),essential services to open from 8am-3pm, a ban on intercity and inter-provincial travel except for essential workers, ban on large gatherings (no more than 30 people at funerals), stopping of cross border services except cargo and critical services, restaurants and bars shut down (except those in hotels). It had already deferred the opening of schools from tomorrow to a date to be announced. People are also required to wear face masks in public, social distance and sanitise regularly.
However, Zimbabweans have of late become complacent and are not adhering to all Covid-19 regulations. On New Year’s Eve, parties were held to usher in the new year with the most prominent one being the musical concert held in Mbare, where thousands of revellers were photographed partying up a storm with reckless abandon with virtually no social distancing or mask-wearing.
This raised concern among ordinary Zimbabweans who reacted with fury and consternation as the event was a potential superspreader of Covid-19. What is clear is that we have become lax as a nation and need to increase our vigilance in so far as Covid-19 is concerned. Our health facilities are grossly inadequate to deal with a sharp surge in infections and this pandemic could wreck all the progress that has been made on the economic front. Authorities, therefore, need to enforce strict Covid-19 mitigation protocols while encouraging the public to observe preventative measures.
We are encouraged by the awareness among some Zimbabweans who are already clamouring for the return of a hard lockdown as this shows how seriously they are taking this new wave. Containment of this virus will take the collective efforts of every Zimbabwean who should do their part in mitigating its spread. Recklessness such as the one witnessed in Mbare on New Year’s Eve and a general disdain for Covid-19 regulations are a recipe for disaster.
In as much as we do not want to alarm the nation, the festive period could prove to be our undoing going forward as many people could have been infected during this short holiday season. In this regard, we urge people who could have been exposed to Covid-19 to self-isolate for the required 10 days, test regularly and manage the condition correctly.
The generality of the population should religiously adhere to all Covid-19 protocols because the country cannot afford a surge in new infections. Let’s avoid a worst-case scenario where our hospitals and other Covid-19 designated facilities end up turning away patients because they are overwhelmed. A simple decision about where you go, who you meet and what you do could be the difference between life and death. Prevention is better than cure.