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New COVID-19 variants already in Zimbabwe

by Staff reporter
27 Mar 2021 at 09:33hrs | Views
HEALTH experts yesterday warned the new COVID-19 variants were already in Zimbabwe and that the country could be hit by a third wave in six weeks time.

They said COVID-19 infections were anticipated to rise during the upcoming Easter holidays next week.

Medical and Dental Private Practitioners of Zimbabwe Association president Johannes Marisa said some people were now complacent after being inoculated, but risked contracting the highly infectious respiratory disease because the variants were mutating and could resist the vaccine.

"It is not that we will be caught unawares by the new wave of the pandemic," Marisa said. "The COVID-19 third wave is hovering above us because people are not serious about following the regulations.

"In six weeks' time or even earlier, we would be in trouble with the new variants," he said.

Government eased the lockdown restrictions to level two last month, leading to complacency as some citizens are no longer social distancing and wear face masks.

Zimbabwe on Thursday recorded 29 new COVID-19 cases and two deaths. The new cases included two returnees from Botswana.

Experts said global statistics on new infections and deaths were on the rise, hence Zimbabwe was likely to follow the same trend if measures were not put in place to enforce adherence to precautionary measures.

"People are no longer practising social distancing, especially in city centres, banks and shops, people are overcrowding. We might be affected by the new variants," Marisa added.

"Obviously, if people remain complacent on following the COVID-19 regulations, cases continue to rise.

"Government should embark on massive COVID-19 awareness campaigns to mitigate the danger of being hit by the new variants which are deadly. Right now, we are following the same trend of when we were affected by the second wave."

Mpilo Central Hospital acting executive Solwayo Ngwenya said the third wave was inevitable.

He said the reopening of schools, complacency of the population and the approaching Easter holidays were providing fertile ground for the emergence of new variants.

"Even if borders are closed, we can get new variants here in Zimbabwe," Ngwenya said.

"Variants can devolve within a population. The South African variants were detected in Zimbabwe before the borders were closed, which is 65% prevalent and highly infectious.

"As long as we allow new infections to rise, we can't avoid the third wave. Then there is the issue of illegal border crossing which fuels transmission of new variants. At the moment, the wave has already started, taking into consideration the trend of how the country was affected by the pandemic."

He said international travel by air also contributed to emergence of new variants.

Health deputy minister John Mangwiro said the third wave could be avoided if people followed the World Health Organisation COVID-19 protocols and got vaccinated.

He said government will tighten enforcement of COVID-19 regulations ahead of the festive season to curb the spread of coronavirus.

"We don't want to be hit by the third wave. We can avoid it," Mangwiro said.

"Government is encouraging people to get vaccinated to protect themselves against the virus. We will enforce the wearing of face masks and social distancing to avoid new infections. We don't want to lose more lives."

Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights secretary Norman Matara said: "We might get the new variants or not, depending on the behaviour and attitude of the people towards following COVID-19 protocols.

"Certainly, if people dump masks, stop sanitising and practising social distancing, we might be affected by the third wave. People also have to know that vaccination is important for protection against the virus."

Source - newsday