‘COVID-19 could hit 50% of population’

Health Minister Chiwenga

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THE COVID-19 situation in the country could worsen, with about half of the country’s population of 15 million at risk of contracting the virus if there is no strict enforcement of lockdown measures, medical experts have warned.

The number of daily COVID-19-related deaths doubled to 28 on Wednesday while 1 331 new infections were recorded on the same day, the highest since January 5 when 1 365 cases were reported, and prompted government to impose a month-long hard lockdown.

Wednesday’s statistics also followed on the 1 249 cases recorded the previous day.

Zimbabwe is in the grip of the third wave of infections, driven by the spread of the Delta and Beta variants of the virus, which were first detected in India and South Africa, respectively.

Over the past week, the average reported new cases daily rose to a new high of 912, according to the latest Health ministry situational report.

Mpilo Central Hospital acting chief executive officer Solwayo Ngwenya called for stricter enforcement of the lockdown measures to prevent the virus from spreading further, saying compliance was very low despite the risks.

“Adherence to the current Level 4 lockdown by the public is poor. We are heading to a more catastrophic period. The variants driving this third wave are multi-mutants and dangerous,” he said.

“They can infect up to 18 people at a time, unlike the previous variants which infected up to three people. We are going to reach a situation where one of every two people in the country will be infected. Unless measures of the lockdown are strictly observed, we are doomed.”

He called for an intensive awareness campaign as a matter of urgency.

“The majority of the population is still complacent of the lockdown measures unaware of the dangers that we are facing. The business operators are, however, compliant to the lockdown measures.  They are closing at the stipulated time, but there is disaster after closing.

“I have witnessed people cramped in public vehicles and at informal markets it is business as usual. There is no social distancing in the shops. Some shops do not even have sanitisers and people are not putting on their masks properly.”

Medical and Dental Private Practitioners of Zimbabwe Association president Johannes Marisa said he was not impressed by the lackadaisical approach to the lockdown.

“People are defying lockdown measures and disregarding the World Health Organisation laid-down COVID-19 protocols,” Marisa said.

“If the situation continues like that, we will record more than 4 000 cases per day in the next two weeks and deaths might actually treble.

“The public is advised that the lockdown was put in place for their own safety not, as a punishment from government. When the new cases recede, normal business operation can resume.”

Health deputy minister John Mangwiro said he was yet to fully assess how the public was complying with the lockdown measures. Mangwiro deputizes Vice President Constantino Chiwenga who is the health minister.

Community Working Group on Health executive director Itai Rusike said: “We have already observed with extreme concern that there is poor compliance of the Level 4 lockdown measures, guidelines and protocols among the general public.

“Such complacency among the populace, specifically in the townships, markets, public transport and liquor selling outlets, is not only dangerous to those individuals, but a threat to the health of all people in Zimbabwe.”

Rusike urged authorities to continue with the enforcement of stricter preventive measures such as mandatory wearing of facemasks in public places and adherence to the physical distancing measures.

“The general public should appreciate that they have a collective responsibility to address this global health pandemic as it is not just the responsibility of the health system and security services alone,” he said.

Yesterday, government enforced mandatory vaccination of all civil servants, according to a circular released by the Public Service Commission.

“In view of the recent announcement by President Emmerson Mnangagwa regarding measures for COVID-19 containment in the country and in view of the fact that all civil servants are considered to be frontline workers, as indicated by the health authorities, all heads of ministries are directed to ensure the vaccination of all civil servants under their jurisdiction,” the circular read.

The Judicial Service Commission has also announced mandatory testing for its employees to curb the spread of COVID-19, but said vaccination would remain voluntary – NEWSDAY

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