Doctors call for aggressive response to COVID-19

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These two ambulances were seen carrying two suspected coronavirus patients to Wilkins Hospital in Harare early this week

DOCTORS have called for aggressive action that include mandatory wearing of face masks in public places in the fight against COVID-19 in the face of growing numbers of confirmed cases in the country.

By Phyllis Mbanje

Zimbabwe now has 28 COVID-19 confirmed cases and four deaths, with cases of local transmission rising as world statistics of both infections and fatalities continue to rise.

The Zimbabwe Senior Hospital Doctors Association (ZSHDA) said the country’s growing statistics called for an aggressive response.

“With community transmission underway, on a balance of probabilities, it is worthwhile to make face masks use mandatory in public places,” SHDA president Shingai Nyaguse said. “We need to up our game in the COVID-19 fight.”

Nyaguse said as a way of combating the spread of the deadly virus, all patients in hospitals must use face masks unless there was a good reason for not doing so.

Chitungwiza Residents Trust (Chitrest) also said research had actually shown that masks mitigate the spread of the virus.

“Prevention is our best defence,” Chitrest president Alice Kuvheya said, adding the use of face masks in public places should be made mandatory.

“If the use of a face mask can mitigate the spread of coronavirus, why is the government not giving it to residents? Are they waiting until someone is infected?

“As residents, we are worried, we thought by now, things like masks and sanitisers should be available to everyone?” Kuvheya queried.

She urged government to make the use of face masks mandatory in all public places, but raised concern that most people could not afford the cost of the protective wear.

“Where will an old woman, an unemployed youth, people living with disabilities get money to buy face masks?” she asked.

Opportunists are selling the masks at exorbitant prices ranging from US$1 up to US$5.

This week, the Africa Centre for Disease Control and Prevention released some guidelines on use of masks by individuals who are not sick in order to reduce potential asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic.

The organisation said there was increasing evidence that persons with asymptomatic, pre-symptomatic or early stages of infection could contribute to the community transmission of COVID-19.

“A face mask will help reduce the spread of infection in the community by minimizing the shedding of respiratory droplets from infected persons who may not even know they are infected and before they become symptomatic,” Africa DC said in a statement.

However, Africa CDC said medical masks should be reserved for healthcare workers only.

Guidelines by the World Health Organisation (WHO) released on April 6 following a review say that masks, though helpful, were insufficient on their own.

WHO was reviewing data from Hong Kong, which suggested masks helped in preventing the spread of COVID-19 in communities.

It said that there was no evidence that wearing a mask in the community prevented healthy people from picking up respiratory infections, including COVID-19.

WHO, however, said if one chooses to use a mask, they should do it properly, like using sanitiser or washing hands after touching the mask.