By Johannes Marisa
MANY lives continue to be lost to the stubborn virus and the bereavement pain continues to grip us.
Many people will require counselling at some point considering the post-traumatic stress disorder, the depression and trauma of great magnitude emanating from the consequences of COVID-19. Medical personnel have stood tall to help the country contain COVID-19 pandemic
. This is the time to give high recognition to our resilient health workforce. Life has not been easy for many as even prominent health professionals have succumbed to the diabolical virus in a short space of time. July has proved to be the deadliest month for our country.
Everyday, we wake up to the news of some prominent people having succumbed to the virus. Ignorant people think that COVID-19 is for the rich only, no, it is only that the poor are not publicised when they die. There are so many people who are collapsing in their homes especially in the rural areas and the unfortunate part is that they lack of knowledge about COVID-19.
There are people who seem not perturbed by the scourge yet lives continue to be lost. COVID-19, like a terrorist war, does not need a lot of bureaucratic protocols but determination to nip it in the bud. There should be flexibility and tolerance from all stakeholders who include government, regulatory bodies, councils and other organisations that have to do with COVID-19 control. We have encountered numerous deaths which are directly attributed to intolerance, poor planning and stifling regulations.
We encountered problems when BOC refused to give oxygen cylinders to some private clinics because they are not registered COVID-19 centres. How many people have been assisted at the very same places when the COVID-19 centres are overwhelmed to this extent?
We need help from all corners. Today it is me and tomorrow it is you who require assistance!
The third wave has proven to be the deadliest so far in our country with regards to morbidity and mortality.
Our rural people need assistance if the spread of COVID-19 is to be averted as their attitude and behaviour are significantly fuelling both morbidity and mortality.
COVID-19 is a reality. All of us have lost a companion or relative as a result the virus. The virulent virus will surely hit us heavily. Zimbabwe has fared well in procurement and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines. Private practitioners are now involved in the vaccination processes. Some bottlenecks have to be ironed out if we are to reach herd immunity. There are limited standard cooler boxes to carry the vaccines around but I believe modifications can be done in these extraordinary times.
Bureaucracy is not progressive and this is the time for transformational leadership. Many unnecessary regulations that derail medical treatment should be shelved to allow our people quick access to medication.
The health workforce has tried to contain the virus and it is my belief that medical care can be delivered anywhere as long as patients get assistance because all hospitals, clinics and surgeries are overwhelmed by COVID-19 cases.
Why then should it take weeks to prepare for private practitioners’ vaccination processes as if these clinicians have not been in medical practice? We question the delays given that we are in the midst of a pandemic. Processes should be done expeditiously so that we get ready for the impending fourth wave down the year.
Measures should be put in place to urgently flatten the curve. It is sad that all age groups are being infected and affected by the virus with serious impact on the political, economical and social aspects of life.
The sad observation is that the virus seems to slip under our noses and many of the infections occur under our watch as our behaviour determines the extent of the infections.
What is needed is discipline and compliance with the stipulated public health measures. It is sad to note that the virus is now moving like whirlwind, with all towns and cities sending distress calls.
The unfortunate part is that despite all these infections, the populace is not as serious as it was during the second wave, raising fears that we may be headed for a medical catastrophe.
The diabetics are in big trouble and it is my advice that these patients should not be wholly attended to at their homes. I have noted with concern that diabetics complicate quite easily and allowing their saturation to slide below 80% is a recipe for disaster.
The mistake that people make is that they assume that the concoctions which were used during the previous two waves, are effective this time around. This is proving to be fatal with dismal failure of even the social media-circulated prescriptions.
Many patients are deteriorating to develop hypoxia, a condition where oxygen levels drop to unprecedented levels. Oxygen level should not slip below 88% without medical intervention. It will be disastrous because of the potential of further sudden desaturation. Further delays will culminate in patients requiring high pressure oxygen or even ventilation.
We have noted why many people are succumbing to COVID-19 in this third wave. Yes, we are a poor country but we have managed to curb the spread of the virus to a greater extent despite the limited resources in the country.
The medical personnel has shown tenacious determination to save lives. If we are to eradicate the virus, we need to accept some of the following:
Diabetes mellitus is a very serious comorbidity with COVID-19 and it is difficult to manage diabetics over the phone. They desaturate very fast. Upon suspecting COVID-19 in diabetics, take all the necessary steps to control their sugar levels and keep them well hydrated.
Vaccination should be up-scaled
The world is already facing the fourth wave with the Middle East already affected. Countries like Indonesia, Bangladesh have been hit hard now while our country is still in the third wave.
This is the right time to lessen the burden on councils and government health workers, government has now moved to allow private medical practitioners to start administering the jabs to the masses, however, the logistical processes of acquiring the vaccines should be eased. The vaccination is not for personal gain but for the national interest.
Funerals are super spreaders
Funerals are showing a positive correlation with both morbidity and mortality. What I observed at a recent rural funeral was that very few people actually observed the stipulated public health guidelines, which is a recipe for a medical catastrophe. We risk losing many of our rural folks due to ignorance. How can we flatten the epidemiological curve if our people are not wearing masks, and observing social distancing among other measures.
Third wave requires medical expertise
What is causing many deaths during the third wave is delay in seeking treatment with many people only seek medical attention when complications are already present. We no longer need self-isolation with the Delta variant but assisted isolation. The assumption that COVID-19 is treated the same way as last time is misleading. The Delta variant is merciless and seems to resist so many common treatments hence putting the lives of many in danger. Patients with comorbidities should not self-treat as they have a high tendency of sudden deterioration. Diabetes, obesity, heart failure, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and hypertension are all a thorn in the flesh. Many patients we see in bad states require oxygen because of respiratory distress syndrome.
Good medical advice saves nations
Many countries have moved back and forth with measures aimed at containing the virus. I wonder why countries with high casualties like Brazil, South Africa do not want to stick to basic public health principles yet their people are dying in numbers. On Tuesday, South Africa recorded at least 555 hospital deaths, a figure quite frightening for an African country. South Africa moved to ease restrictions but that is clearly shooting itself on the foot. Watch what will happen in three weeks to come. Both Britain and South Africa will face difficult moments in a few days with the virus forcing new restrictions sooner than later.
Respect medical personnel
Many people believe that with the use of the internet, they can now match medical staff in terms of knowledge, which is impossible. Internet has provided so many treatment modalities but we should realise that treatment differs based on the specific presentation, age, race or time. It is, thus, my advice that medical staff be allowed to execute their duties without interference. Consult if you are not sure of what is supposed to be done.
As a routine reminder, please let us not forget the following:
l Many people are not observing public health measures like social distancing, masking up, hand washing, sanitisation, which may breed misery in a few days. It is your duty to promote health, and masking up is not to evade police arrest but for your benefit. We ought to remain alert as a nation but what is happening, especially in the high-density areas leaves a lot to be desired. We want to avoid a healthcare system catastrophe which may cause a number of cases and deaths, hence the need to flatten the epidemiological curve. We risk losing all aged rural folks or those with comorbidities like diabetes mellitus.
l It is time for robust health education. Moreso, testing should be enhanced especially in rural areas where they do not observe COVID-19 rules. The media should play a critical role in information dissemination. Many people are complacent despite that the virus is ravaging the country and it is not good news for rural areas where the health delivery system is in the intensive care. The way people are behaving in Zimbabwe leaves a lot to be desired, with some saying there is no COVID-19 in the country. Hey, the virus is already upon us and people should learn to report symptoms and signs early. Self-treatment should never be allowed to go beyond a few days if patients are not showing marked improvement. Remember COVID-19 causes septic shock, thrombo-embolism, renal impairment, respiratory distress syndrome and complicated cases require oxygen or ventilation.
l Assume that all flu is COVID-19 until proven otherwise. Please report symptoms early and be suspicious when you have a sore throat, cough, hot body, headache, loss of taste, joint pain, fatigability, and loss of smell, among others. All age groups are not safe from the Delta variant.
Keep yourself safe. This is the time to be alert about the symptoms and signs of COVID-19. Avoid deterioration of the situation. Let us save ourselves from this scourge.