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Govt frets over Easter holidays

by Staff reporter
29 Mar 2021 at 18:10hrs | Views
AUTHORITIES and medical experts are worried about gatherings during the upcoming Easter holidays, amid fears that these could trigger a local third wave of the lethal coronavirus.

The concerns are heightened by the fact that winter is also fast approaching - a time when other respiratory diseases like influenza are at their most potent.

As a result, the government says it will be deploying more security agents around the country to enforce Covid-19 regulations.

Speaking in the Senate on Thursday last week, Information minister Monica Mutsvangwa confirmed that the government was concerned that the Easter holidays could ignite a new wave of infections of the virulent respiratory disease - which has killed more than 1 500 people since it was first reported in Zimbabwe in March last year.

"Certainly, the security agents will be out in full force to make sure that people are adhering to the precautionary and preventive measures which have been put in place by the government and the World Health Organisation.

"The police and our security agencies will make sure that there will not be any gatherings bigger than the 50 which is allowed," she said.

Mutsvangwa also told the Senate that the government had drawn lessons from the Christmas and New Year holidays which had seen a spike in Covid-19 infections and deaths, after Zimbabweans dropped their guard against the killer disease.

The country recorded more than 600 deaths in the first three weeks of January this year, including those of ministers and business executives - highlighting the huge challenge faced in trying to contain Covid-19 over Easter.

"There was an upsurge in December-January … and certainly, the government is doing all it can to make sure that we avoid a recurrence of the December-January upsurge.

"A lot of efforts have been put in terms of making sure that people adhere to the precautionary and preventive measures which have been put in place by the government and also by WHO.

"If it is a church gathering, there should not be more than 50 people. There will be security agencies to make sure that people comply. The issue of compliance has been a serious problem," Mutsvangwa further told the Senate.

This comes as health experts have also warned that the Easter holidays and the looming winter season could trigger a Covid-19 third wave in the country.

Acting Mpilo Hospital chief executive officer Solwayo Ngwenya was among the experts who warned in interviews with the Daily News yesterday that a Covid-19 third wave was brewing in the country.

"The Easter holidays are going to be super spreaders … people are going to be packed in buses as they travel across provinces.

"And people are going to be partying and the virus is most likely going to spread very fast.

"The worst part of it is that we really don't know how many variants we have in the country although we know the variant in South Africa is one of them.

"In India they have discovered that there are double mutating viruses," Ngwenya told the Daily News.

"The other thing is that we are approaching winter. While last year we were not affected very much as a country, this winter is going to be different because of the new variant we now have.

"There are new variants in Italy, Brazil and the UK and because of international travel we could end up in trouble if people are not careful.

"We need to be more vigilant than ever and continue to do the right things that we all know," Ngwenya further told the Daily News.

Former Health minister Henry Madzorera also urged Zimbabweans to continue observing all Covid-19 protocols - warning that a continuing slip in discipline would have devastating consequences for the country if it experienced a third wave of coronavirus.

"There are many ominous pointers to a possible third wave in Zimbabwe. With the Easter holidays coming, we get a chilling sense of déjà vu.

"Winter is also fast approaching, and that is the time when respiratory illnesses like the flu and Covid-19 hit us the most.

"A third wave would be catastrophic. It may be more vicious in transmissibility with all the possible mutations that can happen, and the chances of a more aggressive and deadlier variant coming up always exists," Madzorera told the Daily News.

"The good news is that a third wave is completely preventable if we as a people exercise the discipline necessary to prevent it for at least another year, while we ensure that our entire population gets vaccinated," he added.

This comes as President Emmerson Mnangagwa has launched phase two of the national vaccination programme.

It also comes after Zimbabwe received a further 400 000 Covid-19 vaccines from China recently, as the government ramps up its vaccination programme.

Early this month, Vice President Constantino Chiwenga - who is also the country's Health minister - said authorities were confident that more people would get vaccinated after an increase in inoculation centres.

"As you are aware, the uptake started at a slow pace, but it has since started picking up. There are a number of factors that saw the process being slowed.

"For instance, there were few stations for the vaccinations … our staff was also learning the ropes of this whole exercise.

"We were also educating our people. Last time when I came (for the jab), it took us 15 to 30 minutes, but today it was just a matter of a minute or two and we were done.

"So, we are definitely going to speed up things. We are also expanding our staff for the vaccination, as well as the centres too," Chiwenga said then.

"We are engaging the medical staff from the uniformed forces … local authorities … and our retired medical staff.

"We are calling them back because if we are to achieve the 60 percent herd immunity we have to do it faster and we have to have enough manpower on the ground," he said further.

Chiwenga also said the government had stepped up its awareness campaigns on the effectiveness of the Chinese vaccines in fighting Covid-19.

"We need people to understand. The business of going to social media and listening to the people who are interested in arguments does not help because what is important is for one to secure his or her own life.

"At the same time, we continue to educate our populace so that they understand. If you have been following what's happening around the globe, people are now saying one cannot travel without being vaccinated.

"Some are calling it a green passport … We are now getting to a point where if you want to go and join others in a pub or restaurant you must produce this passport.

"It's not just that you are getting vaccinated to protect yourself alone, it's also for your family and colleagues as well," Chiwenga also said.

Zimbabwe has since February received 600 000 doses of coronavirus vaccines from China, as the country ramps up its programme to get the lethal respiratory disease under control.

The government is also expected to receive more jabs from China, Russia, the United Kingdom, India and the African Union (AU) - under the World Health Organisation-led Covax programme.

Authorities plan to vaccinate 10 million people by the end of this year.

Source - dailynews