The killer virus continues to terrorise the entire world with an average daily global mortality of over 5 000 people. It is very sad considering that the number of new infections continues to rise. Africa has been relatively safe with lower morbidity and mortality. Less than 500 000 cases have been reported in Africa with just over 10 000 deaths.
Zimbabwe has recorded 605 positive cases as of Wednesday July 1, 2020, with only seven deaths. More than 80% of the cases are returnees from other countries, leaving local transmissions at less than 20%. If the figures are anything to go by, then we are in the right direction as a nation. It appears as if we have managed to contain the virus.
This low local transmission rate can thus be traced to the lockdowns, social distancing, wearing of masks which the government took very seriously especially during the first weeks of implementation.
However, many people are sceptical about the COVID-19 situation in the country. We have not witnessed extraordinarily high number of deaths which may justify the inconspicuous presence of the virus among us.
All is well as I see it but we should no allow complacency and ignorance to encompass us. We will surely perish as the situation in South Africa is not pleasing at all. On Tuesday 30 June, South Africa lost 128 people, the highest daily mortality for an African nation since COVID-19 outbreak.
Many people still have questions about whether Zimbabwe is doing enough to contain the virus. Some epidemiologists postulate that the worst is still to come hence the need for more strict lockdown measures to be put in place for some time.
We do not want to be like Brazil where the government did not implement any lockdown measures, but got a rude awakening and now its mortality is frighteningly high.
South Africa, our neighbour is in the midst of a disaster and we do not want to even imagine the situation and the possibility of the virus virulently encroaching into Zimbabwe.
To date, Zimbabwe has tested only less than 70 000 people against a population of about 15 million. The majority of tests done recently are among the returnees, some of whom have been in quarantine centres for some days.
This may show the inadequacy of testing considering that such testing is centralised that seems to ignore those who illegally cross into the country. The border with South Africa has many illegal entry points like Chiqualaquala, Chikombedzi, Gezani, Chituripasi and these border jumpers have their immediate destinations in towns like Chiredzi, Beitbridge, Masvingo.
It would thus make sense if scaled-up testing is done in these towns and if resources allow, all patients visiting hospitals in these areas should be tested without fail. Results should be availed as soon as possible.
It is a pity that even in Harare, some patients take up to five days before they receive their PCR results. We should be more serious as a nation.
Screening, testing and treatment are vital processes if we are to win the fight against COVID-19. This is the time for scaled-up screening as more cases are being detected.
It is the medical staff that is supposed to execute such tasks. Nurses play a significant role in screening, testing and treatment of patients. Doctors play a pivotal role in the management of patients. With the current nurses’ strike, patient management becomes a mammoth task as so many processes cannot be undertaken because of the unavailability of critical nursing staff.
The government should thus move urgently to address issues raised by the medical staff in order to have a win-win scenario. We understand there is a constrained national purse but taking time to address such issues of national importance can be a recipe for medical catastrophe.
It is better to find a solution sooner than later. We become vulnerable as the virus seems to be spreading its wings towards us from South Africa by the day.
Corruption has not done anyone good. We hear of a lot of money lost in trying to acquire medical products for the benefit of the nation. A lot of public health institutions have been complaining about lack of Personal Protective Equipment.
This has left medical staff exposed to the deadly virus because the masks, gloves, gowns are not enough to cover the entire medical staff. It is prudent for office bearers to be ethical as they discharge their duties. Integrity, consideration and dignity should be at play if we are to succeed as a nation.
There is no wisdom in starving the entire nation of essential deliverables at this juncture when we are all sweating to contain COVID-19.
A few people can benefit, but the entire population is at risk of the pandemic. Let us all stand firm against corruption. The law should surely take its course and no one should be spared at all!
Till we meet again. Stay safe. Shun unhealthy and unethical behaviour.
Dr Johannes Marisa is a medical practitioner, a Public Health practitioner who writes in his personal capacity.