HomeOpinion & AnalysisIs govt ready for the new variant of COVID-19?

Is govt ready for the new variant of COVID-19?


OUR government has never taken things seriously, even something as deadly as the coronavirus. The bungled response, the “time to eat” scandals vis-a-vis personal protective equipment procurement, and lack of seriousness in enforcing the lockdown regulations left us in no doubt that, we are on our own.

The new threat posed by a South African variant of COVID-19, however, is one that government must take seriously. According to reports, this new variant is likely to be more transmissible, could hit young people harder and may be slightly more resistant to vaccines.

Comments like those made by Defence minister Oppah Muchinguri at a rally in Chinhoyi that: “This coronavirus that has come are sanctions against the countries that have imposed sanctions on us. God is punishing them now and they are staying indoors now, while their economy is screaming like what they did to ours by imposing sanctions on us,” reflected a government not only in denial about the threat posed by the virus, but also an ignorant one about what exactly we were facing as a country.

That she has kept her job is also testament to the questionable decision making by the appointing authority.

But where are we now as a country? Clearly our lack of preparedness, even after seven months of being under the cosh, simply shows the gaps we are struggling to fill. The people streaming in from South Africa for the holiday means the danger has multiplied.

In Europe, countries have rushed to impose travel bans on South Africa, similar to the United Kingdom one whose health system is under the cosh from a similarly mutating variant of the virus. For Zimbabwe, it’s a question of how much we are under threat from this new strain given the increased travel between us and South Africa since the border reopened to the public on December 1.

The UK Guardian reported of the new variant from our neighbours that: “The mutations detected in the new South African variant may allow the virus to better bind to and enter cells than previous variants, potentially easing transmission, scientists say.

“The new variant was discovered through routine surveillance by a network of laboratories around South Africa, and found in almost 200 samples collected from more than 50 different health facilities. Originally confined to coastal regions, the variant is now spreading inland.

“The new variant has multiple changes in the spike protein, the part of the virus that binds to cells inside the human body and that is also the main target for many of the antibodies produced during infection or after vaccination. Scientists have isolated one particular mutation — N501Y, common to both the new UK variant and that from South Africa — which they believe is important to its ability to spread fast.”

Forewarned is forearmed, they say. We hope this proves true for this administration, we keep our fingers crossed.

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