Dr Johannes Marisa
The war in Ukraine has overshadowed Covid-19 to the extent that people think the pandemic is over. Cases of Covid-19 are beginning to go up globally. The surprising thing is the degree of prevention laxity as many people are throwing masks away.
Vaccination is snubbed on a daily basis and the result is a mere 23,1% that has been fully vaccinated in Zimbabwe. Only 1,1% of the entire population has received the booster shot.
Many people are now advocating for complete lifting of all the stipulated measures against Covid-19.
There were plenty of these measures which include carrying a Covid-19 certificate for travellers, routine tests at some workplaces, sanitisation at public places, social gatherings, masking up to mention just but a few.
Questions still appear today: Is it time to declare the end of the pandemic that has claimed the lives of at least 6 073 million people and inflicted pain on at least 462 million people globally?
The answer should be an obvious no at the moment. Many countries of this world have gone through multiple waves of the pandemic and the surprising thing is that the phases were dominated by different mutant strains which just appeared abruptly.
The second wave that hit Zimbabwe in January 2021 had the beta variant being dominant, initially sequenced as 501.V2 or B.1.315 in South Africa.
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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 variant, the delta variant which took many lives and had an avalanche of morbidities coupled with serious complications that included respiratory distress syndrome, thrombo-embolism, renal failure septic shock to name but a few.
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 wave because 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, a signal 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 of 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 quite seriously and the country puts drastic measures in order to contain the virus.
Everyone is supposed to follow all 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 the end of the pandemic.
It is wiser to wait for any sprouting cases then see how serious they are before we come to a final conclusion.
People should not relax, instead, should remain alert and vigilant as symptoms and signs arise.
Failure to appreciate the presence of the deadly virus can result in unnecessary losses of lives. Covid-19 is a menace if not attended to early.
If Zimbabwe is to get a fifth wave of Covid-19 today, the virus may become unstoppable because of the ongoing campaigns where many people are getting crowded to listen to their leaders.
We pray that the virus keeps a distance from us during such 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 with the current political rallies
- Hand-washing should be encouraged with soapy water. Alcohol-based sanitisers can continue to be used.
- The old thermometer check using infrared thermometers can be abolished as the practice seems not to serve any purpose anymore. The thermometers are often wrongly used at entrances and in other buildings.
- Early suspicion of Covid-19 should warrant full investigations, treatment and prompt contact action.
It is not yet over with Covid-19. The virus is a menace until it is declared absent forever! Do not drop your guard!