COVID-19: Let us guard against complacency in Zim

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Johannes Marisa

THE coronavirus pandemic has continued unabated globally with talks of unproven medical interventions like vaccination, use of hydroxyl-chloroquine, macrolide in the form of Azithromycin, a broad-spectrum anti-viral Remdesivir which the United States has sanctioned to be used under Emergency Use Authorisation.

The virus continues to ravage the entire world and Europe remains the worst continent with more than 100 000 fatalities followed by the US that has more than 76 000 with more than 1 263 000 cases. Russia seems to be the next in terms of incidence, recording more than 10 000 cases daily for the past five days while Brazil tops South America in terms of daily fatalities at the moment.

Africa remains relatively safe with just less than 50 000 cases and about 1950 deaths. Our dear neighbour South Africa has recorded more than 7 800 cases with 153 deaths while Nigeria has about 3 145 cases with 103 deaths. We thank God for the extraordinary protection as a nation.

While other countries boast of advanced technologies, state-of-the-art hospital equipment, big brains and continuous research, we seem chastened as Zimbabwe as our resources are constrained. We have become a laughing stock in the entire world. Despite our economic misery, we have only witnessed four COVID-19 related deaths with just 34 cases for the entire nation. We have noted where some Western prophets of doom wanted us to be by now after they prognosticated a health Armageddon for us with others even portending corpses in the streets of Harare.

This has not happened yet and it should never happen as long as we remain vigilant as a nation with profound movement in the same direction. We have to guard against complacency if the war is to be incessantly kept under control like what we have done up to now.

Our government has put measures in place and these ought to be followed by all sober-minded citizens of Zimbabwe. The lockdowns were necessary as they helped in containment and mitigation of the coronavirus. Surveillance is a necessary epidemiological process with such calamitous viruses.

Quarantine of suspected cases should be enforced even with guns and those who travel to our dear country should just know that extraordinary measures can be taken anytime for extraordinary diseases.

The Public Health Act should therefore supplant all other laws that govern our daily living. We cannot risk killing the entire nation because one does not want to be tested, quarantined or screened merely because of so-called violation of human rights.

Those who claimed human rights violation in countries like Italy, the US, France have perished from COVID-19 while shouting for human rights. That should not happen to us. Government should intensify testing so that at least we know where we stand by the end of the lockdown.

Affordable testing should be mandatory not the US$25 rapid testing that is offered by private laboratories that have been licensed by the Health ministry.

Complacency seems to be the main culprit today in our dear Zimbabwe. Since the easing of the lockdown this week, many people are running their lives as if COVID-19 has just vanished into the stratosphere.

I noted with disbelief that many people in the high density suburbs like Kuwadzana, Mabvuku, Highfields are not even observing social distancing or the wearing of masks. This is astounding considering how dangerous the COVID-19 is. We should never put ourselves in some comfort zones and convince ourselves that the virus is no longer with us.

All the countries that are shedding tears today did not start with thousand cases but only one case. Handshaking has returned in most places in Harare and it should be noted that the laxity of the lockdown should not be confused with the complete evaporation of the coronavirus.

Soccer matches are being played in backyards with flea markets now being run along the streets especially at dusk. What a pity for our people. People should not cheat death by pretending to observe public health measures yet self-destruction is just visible from a distance.

COVID-19 is here to stay for some time as what was predicted by the World Health Organisation recently. The virus has propensity to strike with another wave of infection and remembering that should send signals to countries that want to do premature celebrations that it is not yet ripe to do so. It was not long ago when UK thought that the fatalities were permanently reduced to less than 200 per day when suddenly, the mortality went above 650 per day. That is what happens with COVID-19. The scourge is real and is still with us.

Let us remain extra cautious about coronavirus. Preventive and protective measures should remain in place. The easing of lockdowns does not signal the end of this medical mishap.

 Johannes Marisa is a medical doctor, educationist and a public health practitioner who writes in his own capacity. He can be accessed on doctormarisa@gmail.com.