Zim not ready for coronavirus

ZIMBABWE recorded its first case of coronavirus, known as covid-19, last Friday from a 38-year-old Victoria Falls resident, who had travelled to the United Kingdom on March 7 and returned on March 15 via South Africa.

Editor’s Memo, Faith Zaba

The country also recorded its first death from the covid-19 this week. Talented broadcaster Zororo Makamba died on Monday at Wilkins Infectious diseases hospital.

According to official figures, Zimbabwe has recorded three covid-19 cases since the outbreak of the disease, which has killed more than 22 000 people and infected nearly half a million people around the world.

The country has been gripped with fear and anxiety, especially after details emerged of the conditions under which Makamba died.

Makamba’s death exposed the country’ ill-preparedness in dealing with the pandemic, which has ravaged countries with quality healthcare systems such as the United States, Italy, the UK and European Union member states.

While we do not know when the Covid-19 pandemic will end or how it will end or what the death toll will be or even what the long-term political and economic impact will be, we need to learn from other countries’ mistakes.

What lessons can Zimbabwe learn from Italy ?

On February 27, the leader of Italy’s governing Democratic party Nicola Zingaretti posted a picture of himself urging people not to change their habits. This was when that country’s coronavirus infections ticked above 400 cases and deaths hit the double digits.

Less than 10 days later, as the toll hit 5 883 infections and 233 dead, Zingaretti, posted a new video, informing the nation that he, too, had the virus.

Italy now has more than 74 386 recorded infections and more than 7 503 dead, and counting. Italy has surpassed China as the country with the highest death toll, becoming the epicentre of a shifting pandemic.

Last Saturday Italy recorded 793 additional deaths.

If these figures do not scare Zimbabweans, I do not know what will.

Italy’s experience only shows that steps to isolate the coronavirus and limit people’s movement need to be put in place early and must be strictly enforced.

Just next door, South Africa at midnight implemented its 21-day lockdown in a bid to stem the outbreak as confirmed cases top 920.

How do we as Zimbabweans work towards flattening the curve, in other words preventing new cases from piling up too quickly in a country with a collapsed healthcare system?.

This is something that needs to be addressed.

Not doing so will result in new cases rising sharply, thereby crippling the capacity of the few isolation centres and putting pressure on an already demoralised medical personnel.

As Zimbabweans, we should unite and put our politics aside as we face this pandemic, which has a potential to wipe out whole generations.

This is not to take away government’s role, which is essential for coordinating response and communicating to the public accurate, up-to-date information about the threat. The government has to also ensure that the health facilities are adequate and well-equipped to deal with the infections. It also has to ensure that the health personnel are adequately protected through the provision of protective gear, which includes spacesuits, gloves, goggles, foot-covers and masks.

Secondly, every individual citizen has to play their part responsibly. It is important that people understand their role in stopping the spread of the disease. It is no longer life as usual and people should heed the call to self-isolate and to practice social-distancing. People must stay at home and limit unnecessary movements. If it means locking down the country to combat the spread of the disease so be it. How many more infections and deaths does the country need for the government to take drastic steps to curb the virus?

Business must also come in to assist government. It is all our responsibility as we face the monster called covid-19

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