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COVID-19: 3rd wave takes hold

by Staff reporter
21 Jun 2021 at 06:12hrs | Views
ZIMBABWE is facing crunch time in its battle to curb rising COVID-19 infections and deaths as the third wave grips the country, medical experts said yesterday.

This comes after the World Health Organisation (WHO) on Friday warned that the situation will get worse in Africa as COVID-19 cases rise at a time when health institutions were failing to handle new admissions.

On Saturday, Zimbabwe recorded 10 COVID-19 deaths, which brought the number of people who succumbed to the virus last week to 40, with an average of five people dying daily.

Infections have been on the rise in the past week with 408 cases recorded on Friday and 293 on Saturday.

Zimbabwe has now recorded 1 666 deaths from 41 628 infections. Medical and Dental Private Practitioners of Zimbabwe Association president Johannes Marisa told NewsDay that the latest figures were enough warning for the country to improve its poor testing as the number of infections could actually be understated.

"We are in big trouble, not only in Zimbabwe, but in other southern African countries as well. The virus is affecting some countries, which were previously recording low cases in previous waves. We need to be very cautious. We may experience the worst fatalities of the pandemic since we were hard-hit in 2020, especially at a time when we do not have enough resources to deal with the Indian and South Af-rican variants.

"Due to extreme poverty, some are not even affording sanitisers and face masks. In Africa, we also do not have enough vaccines. There is poor health education on the pandemic, which is also another big challenge. There is also the issue of poor testing facilities and contact-tracing, which will worsen the situation," Marisa said.

Community Working Group on Health executive director Itai Rusike said poor testing could result in a large number of cases be-ing unaccounted for.

"As the country witnesses a new spike in COVID-19 cases and deaths, with rapid testing, authorities can stay a step ahead by scaling up active case finding in challenging environments in urban and rural communities," Rusike said.

"Testing is the first key line of de-fence against the virus as it allows for the isolation of cases to slow transmission and enhances provision of targeted care to those infected. Testing is also essential for the delivery of COVID-19 vaccines.

"The COVID-19 reality on the ground is worse than the official figures as a lot more people may be infected and moving around without knowing their status. This third wave is highly infectious and spreading devastatingly quickly."

WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Friday said COVID-19 infections in Africa had increased by over 52%, with deaths increasing by 32% in the past week.

He said African countries were likely to be overwhelmed by the surge in COVID-19 cases due to vaccine shortages.

"In Africa, cases have increased by 52% just in the past week and deaths have increased by 32%. And we expect things to only get worse. Vaccines donated next year will be far too late for those who are dying today or being infected today or at risk today," he said.

Only 432 572 people had received their second vaccination jabs, while 701 348 had received their first jabs by June 19, 2021. The country has targetted to vaccinate 60% of its population, about 10 million people to achieve herd immunity.

Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights secretary Norman Matara said: "We are now in a wave where we are seeing rising cases, so it is everyone's responsibility to make sure we contain the virus. On the part of citizens, we need to behave to avoid going out and avoid unnecessary gatherings. On the part of government, we need to intensify our testing so that we test as many people as possible to identify those with the disease and do the right thing."

Progressive Teachers' Union of Zimbabwe president Takavafira Zhou claimed that over 500 teachers were affected by the pandemic since the beginning of this year.

"We have more than 500 cases of COVID-19 infections among our teachers countrywide. Of these, there were 20 deaths this year alone that have been confirmed to us through our structures."

He said when schools open during the pandemic, teachers must refuse to teach bloated classes, or even to mark books of pupils who have not been tested for the virus.

Government has indicated that schools will open on June 28 despite the surge in new infections.

Source - newsday

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