HomeOpinion & AnalysisEDITORIAL COMMENT: Delta variant — get vaccinated or expect to die

EDITORIAL COMMENT: Delta variant — get vaccinated or expect to die

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THE Delta variant is not last year’s virus, and it has become increasingly apparent to healthcare workers that the world is dealing with a different beast.

This is why medical practitioners and other healthcare workers are worried. They have called on government to consider establishing makeshift health centres for admissions as the country’s health institutions buckle under the weight of severe COVID-19 cases. We believe this call is timely and must be heeded without hesitation while also pushing for mass inoculation across the country.

Zimbabwe is no doubt one of the least vaccinated countries with a greater percentage of the population from the countryside and in the urban areas reluctant to take the jab because they are so gullible to believe everything their political leaders tell them. Yet many political leaders (both opposition being the loudest and the ruling class), civic and some community heads have taken a position to be inoculated albeit late when many of their followers had succumbed to the global respiratory virus.

Compared with versions of the coronavirus that circulated in 2020, having an Alpha, Beta or Gamma variant modestly increased the odds that an infected person would become seriously ill with COVID-19.

The Delta variant raised the risk even higher, increasing the odds that an infected person would need to be hospitalised or could die of the infection by 50% compared to older variants, regardless of the vaccination status. Clearly, healthcare workers are now overwhelmed with patients infected by the respiratory virus, resulting in shortages of beds and equipment required to stem the tide.

The country has for almost a month been under level four lockdown, which prohibits public gatherings and intercity travel, among other measures to curb the spread of COVID-19. It makes sad reading that hospitals are again inundated with COVID-19 patients.

Last year’s events are playing themselves out and the outcome will surely be a disaster of an unimaginable levels. What of all those dying at home without seeking medical assistance probably because they have been told not to take the available vaccine.

This catastrophe could have been avoided if government had engaged other stakeholders across the length and breadth of our country, including the private sector, to fix and plug the gaps.

That our healthcare system is in a semi-comatose condition is undeniable but what is infuriating is the lethargic reaction from officials. Bureaucratic bungling is what has held back this country as before.

Those, who are being turned away at public health facilities, are usually the downtrodden. The affluent will get first-class medical care at state-of-the-art facilities like Arundel, St Anne’s etc. But at this pace even these will also become overwhelmed.

Our plea to the government is to avail funds and urgently erect temporary structures to cater to the less privileged. For the healthcare workers this cannot be easy. They are over-stretched and demotivated especially given that their salaries are less than US$200 and new legislation that seeks to stop them from exercising their rights.

Theirs is a mammoth task — working with huge numbers on empty stomachs. We applaud the Business Forum Trust for once again sourcing food packs for the doctors, who are working around the clock with obsolete equipment to save lives.

If government is failing to honour its pledge to protect its citizens at all times then the citizens are on their own. A gentle reminder — COVID-19 knows no boundary and authorities who have so far survived should be at the forefront advocating for a better health system. The third wave is causing havoc, but the damage could have been minimised with proper funding.

Treasury has an obligation to allocate 15% of the national budget to health. COVID-19 has exposed funding gaps. Citizens only have two choices: Either be vaccinated and end the pandemic, or dither and expect death — a lot of it.

We should see opposition leaders, civil society and the church urging their followers to be vaccinated? Let us plug these gaps before people start dying on the streets en masse.

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