Spike in SA COVID-19 cases cause for concern

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Johannes Marisa

I REMEMBER during our high school days at Zimuto High when our then geograpghy teacher Mrs Magunda would become livid if a scholar failed to describe what an epicentre was. It would be a catchy and imperishable day for the scholar as we studied earthquakes. An epicentre is thus a central point of an event, typically a difficult or unpleasant one. COVID-19 pandemic has ravaged the entire world with more than 440 000 lives having been lost to this stubborn pandemic. Epicentres have kept changing from Wuhan province in China to Italy, then USA to Brazil and my prediction is that India is next before landing in South Africa in probably six weeks from now. Neighbouring South Africa has been recording more than 3 000 cases per day for the past three days and is now sitting on number 21 in the whole world. This is not good news to us in Zimbabwe although so far our country has recorded less than 400 cases.

While much is not known about cases in Wuhan province of China, the other epicentres have shown extensive aggression and extension to the neighbouring countries. When Italy was hit heavily by the coronavirus, it lost more than 34 000 people and it was sad news for France on the western border and that saw more than 29 000 people succumbing to the notorious virus. This was the time that everyone realised that Europe was on fire and extinguishing it was not as easy as what people expected. COVID-19 has no cure until now and neither is there a recommended vaccine as of today.

United States of America (USA) was the next one to be hit with New York being the new epicentre. The neighbouring states were not spared, so the onslaught extended to New Jersey and Massachusetts.

The scourge was to cross the border into Mexico which has lost more than 17 000 people as of today. Brazil borders Peru which is already in flames with daily deaths of more than 170.

While we celebrate that Zimbabwe seems to be safe at the moment, we should bear in mind that we are not yet out of the woods. We border South Africa and our bond with Mzansi is too strong to be detached. South Africa is the biggest trading partner of our beautiful country and whatever waves shake South Africa, will also shake us as a nation.

Beitbridge is the busiest border in Southern Africa as many traders use it in transit to their countries like Zambia, Malawi and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Despite the closure of many borders to casual travellers, truck drivers have been allowed to traverse the borders because they are classified as essential services but the coronavirus does not spare anyone. Africacheck in 2017 estimated that about three million Zimbabweans are in South Africa and less than half of these are registered. Many do not have passports, meaning their travelling may mean border jumping thus automatically evading routine mandatory 21-day quarantine that casual travellers go through. With South Africa now recording more than 3 000 cases a day, that should send shivers down our spines as the atomic bomb may detonate at any given time. The nation should actually gear up as we approach July as things may get worse than before if my projections are anything to go by.

Events in quarantine centres seem to point to the same. Almost, if not all, the new cases in Zimbabwe are reported from quarantine centres and at first I was wondering whether it was really importation of the virus from South Africa or mere quarantine centre contamination. With the way events are unfolding in South Africa, it seems really South Africa is heavily hit. If South Africa is to be the next epicentre after India, we have to become worried as Zimbabwe as we are her northern neighbour. Moreover, Botswana, Namibia, Mozambique and Swaziland should also start tightening their belts as they share geographical boundaries with Mzansi. In essence, the entire southern region should just brace for an impeding catastrophe.

Events on the ground seem to show much to the contrary with high levels of complacency, defiance, ignorance and doubt. No one seems to care anymore and people are now behaving as if the lockdowns have just evaporated away.

Although there is aggravated economic misery because of COVID-19, we should also remember that life is very precious, irreplaceable and needs us to be very careful in terms of healthcare. People panicked at first, then went into self-deception mode and now ignorance seems to be overtaking every other thinking.

Remind your neighbour that events in South Africa are not pleasing and they may spell doom for us in Zimbabwe in some few weeks!

Be alert. Exercise hygiene and observe public health measures. Do not put on gloves in public that are not changed per every client. Take note at service stations, in banks, at tollgates and supermarkets. Know the correct thing to do!

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

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