Opinion & Columnist

New COVID-19 strain: It’s all hands on deck!

2020 was a miserable year for everyone in all sectors of life with health, education, social gatherings being affected extensively.

Johannes Marisa

About 1,8 million people have already lost their lives while more than 82 million have been infected with the coronavirus.

It all started as a small virus in Wuhan city of China at the end of 2019 but then spread to the entire world with United States of America being the biggest casualty while other Western countries like Italy, Germany, United Kingdom are quaking as well. The world is in a quandary for sure as many lives are being lost daily.

Africa fared well in terms of COVID-19 control.

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The number of casualties is not as high as those of the West or East.

It seems God has fought for us up to this day.

We thank our medical staff, both public and private, for standing firm against COVID-19.

South Africa is the only African country that has surpassed the 1 million mark with deaths at least 27 600.

South Africa is a hub of activity in Africa with tourists visiting cities such as Cape Town, Durban, Johannesburg, East London et cetera.

Zimbabwe has more than 2 million of its people in South Africa who usually flock back during the festive season to be with their relatives and friends.

There were some prerequisites for one to be allowed to cross the border and among them were negative PCR certificates.

So many loopholes were detected on this issue as fraudulent certificates were in circulation with some institutions just giving certificates without the required testing.

Some laboratory staffers at Chitungwiza Hospital were arrested in October 2020 for issuing fake certificates.

While many people thought COVID-19 was on its way out, there was a sudden change of events in early October 2020 when it was noted that there was a second wave of the virus.

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Like in September 1918 during the Spanish flue, the second wave has proven to be more virulent than the first.

Between April and August 2020, the world used to lose an average of 5 000 people daily but the second wave saw daily deaths going beyond 10 000 with more than 500 000 new cases everyday.

This is a serious disaster. A lot of our people were complacent with very few still seeing sense in observing public health measures like the wearing of masks, observing social distancing, hand washing or sanitising.

Many rural people seem to be ignorant about the COVID-19 and funerals are treated as normal events despite the threat posed by the stubborn virus.

Now, the sad news is with us as South Africa has just identified a new variant of the coronavirus, 501.V2.

This strain is said to be very fast, it is quite unselective on age groups and has potential to move like a whirlwind.

The transmission rate is fast with a reproductive number greater than 3 if the research done so far is anything to go by.

The world is taking measures against the spread of the new South African strain with many countries  restricting movement to and from South Africa.

For us, beloved Zimbabweans, we are in trouble if events in South Africa continue unabated.

It was only on December 29 that South Africa recorded its highest daily deaths of 497 since the detection of its first case on March 5.

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The high-density suburbs like Kuwadzana, Mufakose, Warren Park and Dzivarasekwa seem to be recording quite high numbers of suspected COVID-19 cases.

However, many cannot afford to pay US$65 for a PCR test which is a drawback in the fight against COVID-19. This is the reality on the ground from what I have been noticing during the past one week and the situation could have been aggravated by the opening of borders and the haphazard nature of travelling. Some people crossed the border illegally through the flooded Limpopo River while others bought their way into Zimbabwe by corrupting security agents at points of entry. It is my view that considering the worsening COVID-19 cases, the following measures should be taken as a matter of urgency:

˜Government should urgently consider setting up testing centres in high-density suburbs like Kuwadzana or Dzivarasekwa if we are to get the real picture of what is happening. What we are witnessing as practitioners in these populated suburbs is quite alarming.

˜Government should defer schools opening while monitoring  transmission.

The South African strain 501.V2 is affecting even the young ages so school kids can be in trouble. Both suspected and confirmed cases should be recorded on the national database.

Data which is collated from all medical institutions should be analysed for planning purposes. The Health ministry would not know what is happening on the ground if both data and information are not available.

˜Restrictions should be enforced and these should include lockdown, banning of public gatherings while public health measures like sanitisation, hand washing and wearing of masks should be observed with sincerity.

Why are people moving up and down in public places without masks?

Why are people sneaking into bars or night clubs yet there is a high risk of COVID-19 transmission?

Let us be alert and more careful considering the possibility of high transmission after the holidays.

January and February may be months of misery

NEWSDAY