COVID-19 today and the need for everyone to tighten belt

guest column:Johannes Marisa


I am sure everyone agrees with me today that the coronavirus is hitting harder than before.

I am sure even the doubting Thomases have now witnessed serious cases and numerous deaths during the past days which is a sign that all is not well with the pandemic.

I was alarmed when I saw a video clip of some residents of Beitbridge claiming that there is no COVID-19 and that they had not witnessed any deaths from coronavirus.

You still hear some people on social media disputing the presence of COVID-19 even in towns and cities.

Such level of ignorance should not be exhibited by somebody who is literate.

As of today, close to 2 million people have lost their lives to the pandemic with United States of America being the worst affected country on both morbidity and mortality.

Africa is now feeling the heat with South Africa leading on total deaths with at least 34 334.

Zimbabwe has lost at least 551 people as of today but this figure is quite low and not reflective of events on the ground.

We, as medical practitioners doing outpatient consultations daily in both high and low-density suburbs, have first-hand information on the pandemic.

It is a pity that during the past 2 weeks, about 70% of all the patients that we attended to were clinical COVID-19 cases.

The biggest limitation to full diagnosis is the absence of the necessary tests as many people cannot afford at least US$65 for a standard PCR test.

That is where we are failing as a nation.

Failure to have reliable data results in distorted information which makes planning a mammoth task even at the highest level of administration.

As foot soldiers, we note with concern the situational reports released daily.

On January 12, Harare was said to have recorded only two deaths which to me did not make sense because I certified 4 people who died at home with their results being positive.

Whoever is compiling the reports should get as much data as possible from Harare Central Hospital pathology unit, Parirenyatwa, Chitungwiza hospitals and many other clinics and hospitals.

There are dangers asssociated with underreporting especially when we are dealing with serious pandemics.

There is naturally a false sense of security when one hears that only 24 people died on a particular day yet South Africa recorded 755 hospital deaths on the same day.

The reason why some of our people do not heed lockdowns and other public health measures is that the statistics released about COVID-19 are not convincing and, therefore, the resultant denial of the existence of the virus among us.

What I can tell the nation today is COVID-19 is a reality and it is striking like lightning.

Many will not believe until it takes very close relatives but it will be too late.

It is an open secret that many people cannot find admission beds in Harare at the moment and oxygen supplies are dwindling in the country.

We need the policy makers to know the dire situation on the ground in order for them to make informed decisions.

Relaying wrong information to policy makers is not only suicidal but detrimental to our health as a nation. We will be wiped out.

In view of the seriousness of the COVID-19 attack on the ground, it is my view that the following steps should be taken as a matter of urgency:

 That government and local authorities should declare all clinics, surgeries and hospitals COVID-19 treatment centres.

There are so many clinics that are underutilised in cities like Harare, Bulawayo, Gweru, Masvingo yet people are dying at home because facilities are overwhelmed.

Declaring oxygen tanks, drips, intravenous drugs basic items will help a lot of people especially those who have hypoxia.

Staff should be motivated and if possible, donor support sought very fast in order to accommodate the many patients who are stuck at home.

Some of us are willing to offer free medical services in such facilities to save our beautiful nation.

 Data collection should be thorough and well-co-ordinated so that its integrity is not disputed.

Failure to avail accurate data will not take us anywhere except continue watching our people die.

 Testing capacity should be increased as soon as possible with testing centres being introduced in populated suburbs like Kuwadzana, Budiriro, Dzivarasekwa, Mufakose, Warren Park.

Many people cannot afford private laboratory fees hence they need support from councils or government.

 More health education programmes should be introduced and the nation should be made aware that the second wave is more lethal than the first one.

People should not just self-isolate despite worsening symptoms and signs.

Report to your clinicians if you are experiencing shortness of breath.

COVID-19 is real, let us all tighten our belts.

Do not mislead others that there is no COVID-19.

We are overwhelmed by the scourge as medical practitioners.

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