Not yet time to declare end of COVID-19

COVID-19 booster shots

The entire world seems to be suffering from coronavirus fatigue with many people now failing to observe public health measures that were put in place by governments. Many people claim that masks are irritating, yet they have contributed significantly to the containment of the spread of COVID-19.

Vaccination is snubbed and the result is a mere 23,1% that has been fully vaccinated in Zimbabwe. Only 1,1% of the population has received the booster shot.

Many people are now advocating for a complete lifting of all the measures against COVID-19. There are a number of these measures which include carrying a COVID-19 certificate for travellers, routine tests at workplaces, sanitisation in public places, and at social gatherings, masking up just to mention but a few. The topical question today is: Is it the right time to declare an end to the pandemic that has claimed the lives of at least 6 073 million people and inflicted pain on at approximately 462 million people globally?

The answer should be no at the moment.

Many countries of this world have gone through multiple waves of the pandemic which were dominated by different mutant strains.

The second wave that hit Zimbabwe in January 2021 had the Beta variant being dominant, which was initially sequenced as 501.V2 or B.1.315 in South Africa. The variant was first detected in the Nelson Mandela Bay of Eastern Cape and was reported on December 18, 2020. The stubborn third wave had a more calamitous, Delta variant which took many lives and had an avalanche of morbidities coupled with serious complications that included respiratory distress syndrome, thromboembolism, renal failure septic shock, among others.

It was not long before the globe woke up to the news that there was a unique mutant strain, the Omicron, which had a constellation of mutations and had the fastest transmissibility. However, the fourth wave was not as vicious as the third because the case fatality rate was very low. Lately, COVID-19 has stabilised in terms of mortality with the globe recording an average of 5 000 daily deaths.

Africa is now recording less than 40 deaths per day, which may signal either the end of COVID-19 or the end of the fourth wave. There has been talk about the Recombinant strain, the Deltacron, a combination of both Delta and Omicron. There was a mutant strain emanating from the first Omicron, BA2, which was thought to be more aggressive. We are waiting to see how the strains are going to take shape. China has lately recorded a surge in COVID-19 cases, with cases going above 5 000 in just three days and that is the highest number of cases to be recorded in China since 2020.

China is one country that takes COVID-19 seriously and it puts drastic measures to contain the virus.

Everyone is supposed to follow the stipulated measures religiously and travellers have to be screened thoroughly with more than 51 million people being locked down in Jilin and Shenzhen provinces.

If COVID-19 started with one person, there is fear that the virus can continue circulating and re-emerging through multiple mutations.

The Western world has not taken some of the measures seriously, culminating in unprecedented morbidity and mortality.
It is, thus, prudent for all of us to know that it is not yet time to declare an end to the pandemic. It is wise to wait for any emerging cases then see how serious they are before we conclude. People should not relax, instead, they should be alert as symptoms and signs arise.

Failure to appreciate the presence of the deadly virus can result in unnecessary loss of lives. COVID-19 can be a real menace if not attended to early.

If Zimbabwe is to get the fifth wave of COVID-19 today, the virus may become unstoppable because of the ongoing campaigns where many people are gathering at rallies. We pray that the virus spares us during  these times of mass gatherings.

The following public health measures should thus remain in place even if lockdowns were scrapped long back:

  •  Masks should remain in use even if cases are on the decline;
  • Social distancing should be observed although it sounds impossible given the current political rallies;
  • Hand-washing should be encouraged with soapy water. Alcohol-based sanitisers should continue to be used.
  •  Temperature checks using infrared thermometers should be abolished as the practice seems not to serve any purpose anymore. The thermometers are being wrongly used.
  • Any suspicion of COVID-19 should warrant full investigation, treatment and prompt contact tracing. COVID-19 is not yet over. We should be on the look out until it is declared non-existent!