Zimbabweans must not loosen their guard against Covid-19, President Mnangagwa and the World Health Organisation (WHO) have warned, while the Government wants people to forgo or at least seriously minimise traditional Christmas festivities to stop infection rates rising.
As the second wave hits a number of African countries, including South Africa, complacency has been creeping into society, with people disregarding containment measures after WHO commended the Government for the way it has managed to slow the spread of the pandemic and keep both infection rates and deaths low, largely by implementing measures in time and getting most people to follow these.
Zimbabwe has been seeing a steady rise in infection rates, with 97 new cases yesterday taking the total since the start of testing to 12 422, according to statistics released by the Government, with two more deaths taking the total to 322. While totals are creeping up, medical experts stress that Zimbabwe can avoid more serious rises if everyone follows the rules that have worked so far: masking, social distancing, sanitising, obeying test and travel laws, avoiding large groups and generally taking care.
WHO country representative Dr Alex Gasasira applauded the Government of Zimbabwe for the way it responded to the pandemic, but warned cases could rise again if the guard is loosened.
“We are at a time where we should be celebrating the festive season, but let us not forget the immediate challenge that is in our midst — Covid-19. Many countries in our region have been experiencing resurgence in Covid-19 cases. Zimbabwe is one of them,” said Dr Gasasira.
He said it was encouraging that Zimbabwe did not neglect other health services it was mandated to deal with, despite the presence of the global pandemic. WHO was encouraged by the efforts Zimbabwe had put in place to strengthen its health systems under the ongoing restructuring exercise.
“We are all aware of the efforts to ensure a strong health system and all this has not been forgotten despite the challenges that Covid-19 has brought.”
This week, the country is receiving an influx of returning residents from neighbouring countries, especially South Africa, with some flouting regulations by circumventing measures to gain access into the country without requisite tests. With over 900 000 cases, South Africa is the hardest hit country on the continent and returnees, particularly those skipping the border and bribing their way to entry, have raised fears of a potential surge in cases.
Vice chairman of the Ad-Hoc Inter-Ministerial Taskforce on Covid-19, Professor Amon Murwira said security at borders had now been heightened and emphasised the importance of minimising festivities.
“Covid-19 is still there and the point is never to lose our guard because life is precious. We want to enjoy these festivities again, next year. We must take care and never lose our guard. We need to be responsible and save lives. Festivities can be enjoyed again.
“We have increased our responses at the points of entry so that people adhere to the prescribed protocols. We do not need for example, to wear masks for the police only, but we need to protect ourselves and others,” said Professor Murwira.
Addressing the nation yesterday ahead of the Unity Day commemorations today, President Mnangagwa took time to remind Zimbabweans not to be complacent.
“I once again appeal to the nation to remain mindful of the fact that Covid-19 is still with us. During this festive season and beyond, our safety and that of our beloved ones is a priority. Let us never let our guard down,” said President Mnangagwa.
Vice President and Minister of Health and Child Care Dr Constantino Chiwenga is on record as saying early successes in the fight against Covid-19 should not be mistaken for total victory against the global pandemic.