Time to scrap mandatory wearing of masks

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Medical and Dental Private Practitioners of Zimbabwe president Johannes Marisa

BY Johannes Marisa
COVID-19 came and caused untold suffering to many people in this world.

Many people succumbed to the heinous respiratory virus.

Although it is estimated that about 6,4 million people lost their lives since the beginning of the pandemic on December 31, 2019, more unrecorded people died from the virus or its effects.

Almost every family was affected in one way or another.

The calamitous nature of the virus was appreciated in January 2021 when the delta variant wreaked havoc.

It was to be followed by the Omicron variant in June 2021, which was diabolical in nature, with many cases of respiratory distress syndrome, pulmonary embolism, renal failure and protracted pneumonia.

Diabetes Mellitus became one of the most obnoxious diseases with high mortality if comorbidities were considered.

The fourth wave had the fastest variant in the form of the Omicron virus which, however, had the lowest case fatality rate.

The world was better prepared as vaccinations were rolled out globally and fear was no longer as prevalent as during the other phases.

People should know that COVID-19 is still causing misery in the world and the world is recording close to 800 000 daily cases, with Germany and the United States reporting nearly 80 000 cases on a daily basis.

About 2 000 lives are being lost on a daily basis, a figure which is still worrisome.

COVID-19 is still a menace, hence the need to remain vigilant about it.

Africa is a blessed continent since the start of the pandemic.

The entire continent is recording about 10 deaths on a daily basis with less than
3 400 cases on the daily radar.

About 256 900 people lost their lives in Africa despite the poor health infrastructure, under-staffing, brain drain and shortage of essential drugs.

The continent stood firm and Zimbabwe managed to contain the loathsome virus mainly through strict public health measures which included lockdowns, masking up, social distancing, hand-washing and sanitisation.

The country had lost 5 579 people by yesterday morning, although the number can be higher because of poor reporting of data.

Special mention should go to our diligent healthcare workers, who were brave enough to face the COVID-19.

With COVID-19 cases now on their lowest in Africa as a whole, I am of the opinion that mandatory wearing of masks should now be shelved.

Botswana, like many other countries, has removed mandatory masking up since cases nose-dived and Zimbabwe seems to be out of the woods at the moment.

It will be in the interests of everyone to free themselves from masks which have been dangling on chins for too long now.

It will be prudent to consider masks for people who are in close settings such as public transport or indoor public meetings because of close contacts and possibly limited ventilation.

I do not see it important to continue with the wearing of masks at this juncture when COVID-19 cases are very low.

We should just remain vigilant, practising maximum disease surveillance, doing robust contact tracing and executing speedy case management.

If there is a surge in cases, then it will be prudent to revert to masking up.

Government can, therefore, free us from mandatory masking up until we feel the virus is on the roll again and the rate of infection is soaring.

Monkey pox has caused headlines in the past weeks, but we have no reason to worry about a virus that has been in existence for over 51 years in Africa.

The virus is an orthopoxvirus that has been endemic in the Democratic Republic of Congo since 1971.

Although masking up remains key in containing the virus, it is not yet time to take such measures in our country, where no single case of the virus has been reported.

When time for strict public health measures comes, we are more than ready as a nation.

Government can thus spare us from mandatory masking-up. We can do better together!

  •  Johannes Marisa is president of the Medical and Dental Private Practitioners Association of Zimbabwe. He writes here in his personal capacity.