Covid-19: Flattening the infections curve

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Lift lockdown in phases

THE COVID-19 pandemic continues to tear the world, with the major economies crying foul because of
the recession. Dr Johannes Marisa

Germany had its economy shrinking by 6% during the first quarter of the year, the United States recorded about 4% shrinkage and the International Monetary Fund postulates that close to US$9 trillion will be lost in a spate of 24 months.

Today, the world has lost more than 229 000 people with the US, Italy. The United Kingdom, France and Spain
topping the list of fatalities despite all the sophisticated equipment and socalled intelligence they have. While
the fatalities continue to skyrocket by the ticking of the clock, many countries are beginning to ease lockdown
restrictions.

We need to have strategies as Zimbabwe that will flatten our COVID-19 curve, but also paying attention to our
already fragile economy so that we do not flatten it as well.

While our government has frantically tried to implement “total lockdown”, the situation on the ground seems to go the other direction with high-density residents being involved in bizarre activities like soccer matches, wrestling.

Unnecessary crowds are just seen under trees, with people virtually doing nothing except giggling, gossiping
or chatting without even observing social distancing.

Mealie-meal queues have been hampering progress in the anti-COVID-19 war as the commotion associated with the arrangements have often drawn the ire of security agents who at times are forced to re-align the queues in order to bring order.

By April 10, Zimbabwe had carried out 371 tests, with 11 positive cases. On April 18, 1 300 tests were done with 24 positive cases. On April 28, there were 7 287 tests, done with 32 cases, while April 29 saw a surge in cases to 40 after 7 642 tests.

Up to now, Zimbabwe has recorded four COVID19-related deaths.

If these figures are our true ones, then we are a blessed country that surely has God’s great protection.

While the biblical David had only a stone and a sling, he managed to destroy a gigantic and well-trained Goliath.
We agree we do not have much defence as a nation by our spiritual armoury might be sharper than expected although we should not celebrate early. A typical pandemic should see cases doubling between three to five
days, especially when cases have been
starting.

We were lucky as a nation that we moved quite fast to have lockdowns, quarantines, some testing, contact tracing although a lot of people believe that our testing has not been as robust as expected.

We were targeting to reach up to 33 000 tests by April 30 of which we have not even reached a third of our
postulation. I hope this May there will be speed and accelerated contact tracing. The goals of community mitigation
include delaying and reducing peak burden on healthcare, also known as flattening the curve, and also lessening
overall cases and health impact.

This is the time that should be utilised in looking for resources like increasing beds, ventilators, personal
protective equipment (PPE) in order to meet the anticipated demand.

With the two weeks of the extended lockdown about to lapse in few days, I am of the opinion that government
can start to ease some of the restrictions from the 3rd of May, but total lifting of the lockdown will be a complete disaster for the nation.

It would make a bit of sense if the following common activities are noted in what I would call Stage 1 post total lockdown (for about two weeks, then reassess)

  • Massive testing be done on all who deserve
  • Results of tests done be released same day
  • All cross-border drivers should be tested and issued with clearance certificates
  • Gatherings are restricted to less than eight people
  •  Commercial businesses reopen
  • Organised informal businesses can open at gazetted places. NB**In the locations, informal businesses were operating daily on backyards
  •  Non-essential inter-city travelling should be restricted
  • Public transport resumes with restricted number of maximum passengers
  • Bars, cinemas, clubs should remain closed until further notice
  • Church gatherings to remain suspended
  • Schools may open around May 12, but with less than 30 pupils in class. All teachers to be tested for COVID-19
    before attending lessons
  • Law enforcement agents should patrol suburbs, especially the highdensity suburbs even during the night. We hear of bars that are secretly opened during the night. We cannot risk the entire nation because of beer.
  • Borders should remain closed tointernational travellers. It seems about 75% of all our cases are directly imported. Please let international travelling stop!
  • It is prudent that while all these measures are taken, public health strategies should be intensified. The
    following should be observed:
  • Mandatory wearing of face masks by everyone
  • Widespread hand sanitising at all public places like offices, supermarkets, clinics. The sanitisers should be
    alcohol-based
  • Health education to everyone so that the importance of anti-COVID-19 war is understood. It is not the
    government that wants to punish people, but the virus is a cunning one.
  • All health workers should be provided with PPE so that medical centres do not become hubs of infection. Do
    not rejoice when you see health workers executing their duties without protective equipment. My disaster is your disaster hence a national calamity.

COVID-19 is real! Whoever wants to donate PPE can do so. The benefits will be for the entire nation and our victory means for us all.
The practice of social distancing should consistently be observed. At least one to two metres apart
Above all, widespread testing, case identification, contact tracing and isolating those who are positive. Do not
bribe people out so that you are not quarantined. You will kill all of us.
Please stay safe. Stay at home!

Dr Johannes Marisa is a medical doctor, an educationist and a public health practitioner who writes in his personal capacity.