It seems Zimbabwe is again at a crossroads as it faces the possibility of another hard lockdown. On Wednesday Health minister Constantino Chiwenga announced the coronavirus variant first seen in India had landed on our shores claiming at least one life in the Midlands city of Kwekwe.
The news of the new variant is as devastating as the announcement last year, to the month, of the very first Covid-19 death. The reaction from the public then was that of panic as few understood what this virus was all about. The death in Kwekwe should not cause panic, for a lot more is now known about the SARS-CoV-2 and how to manage it, but knowledge of the Indian strain is still sparse leading to the uncertainty gripping people now.
The information spreading around so far is mere speculation. Many believe that because it hit India so hard that means it’s more contagious and more deadly than all the other variants identified so far. But the fact that it has affected so many people in India may not be due to its contagiousness but to other factors. It is believed that religious festivities that brought millions of people together in one place may have facilitated its easy spread. It should also be borne in mind that India has a huge population of 1,4 billion people. When percentages are calculated it may as well be that, per capita, Indian statistics are not grossly at variance with the fatality rates in the rest of the world.
But there are issues Zimbabweans should look into immediately. The World Health Organisation has said there is no indication so far that the Indian strain would be resistant to the vaccines being administered now around the world. Zimbabweans need to introspect: why is it that the majority of our people resisted the vaccination programme that the government rolled out in February? According to official statistics only about 600 000 Zimbabweans have been vaccinated out of a target of 10 million people deemed to be the number that would achieve herd immunity.
The Zimbabwean population is therefore very vulnerable to the third wave that might be triggered by the Midlands incident. Already, about a dozen people in that area have been infected showing how the virus spreads exponentially.
If, in the next few days, the rapid spread of the strain continues, the government might have no choice but to impose another hard lockdown which Zimbabwe doesn’t need, let alone deserve, considering the now world-acknowledged response by the government which is said to be the best on the southern African sub-continent.
If the hard lockdown has to be put in place more livelihoods would be affected as people lose jobs and those who live hand-to-mouth have to close their vending businesses. We all know other problems that come with this, such as domestic violence which mostly affects women and children.
But Zimbabweans who resisted vaccination cannot be allowed to have their cake and eat it too. It is known that many companies encouraged their executives and workers to get vaccinated. We also know that many individuals took the bold step to get vaccinated.
The more-than-half-a-million people who were conscientious enough to heed the call for vaccination cannot be made to suffer a hard lockdown because of the negligence or sheer foolishness of those who resisted. The laws of natural justice should dictate that those who were vaccinated should go about their business as usual as long as they observe the general WHO guidelines of preventing infection and spreading of the virus. The rest deserve their comeuppance.