BY FAITH ZABA
COVID-19 cases bre-ached the 2 000 mark per day in Zimbabwe this week as the third wave proves to be more lethal.
Statistics show that over 60 000 cases have been recorded so far, with close to 2 000 deaths and the recovery rate is at 70%, while 42 330 people have survived the deadly novel virus.
Going by the figures, Zimbabwe is stuck in the middle of a crisis. Lives are at stake. Livelihoods are being decimated. Put succinctly, the virus has caused untold suffering since the first case was reported in March 2020.
In response, the government this week tightened Covid-19 Level 4 lockdown measures. The state had initially banned inter-city travel, public gatherings, bars, liquor stores and restaurants. Working hours were slashed, while curfew was extended to 6:30pm.
The rampaging third wave demands decisiveness. In that regard, government has reintroduced exemption letters for workers moving around after curfew hours.
Cabinet has also directed Treasury to urgently release the first trench of ZW$368,2 million to fund efforts to contain the spread of the pandemic.
Stiffer penalties will be imposed for violations of Covid-19 restrictions, including the withdrawal of business operating licences.
While business and the informal traders have raised concern over the new restrictions, saying they have grave consequences on the economy and the general welfare of many families, it would have been unwise for the government not to act, with daily Covid-19 infections spiking at this rate.
The pandemic is still unfolding in Zimbabwe. There has to be a systematic strategy to contain the spread of the deadly disease.
Imposing stringent measures alone is not enough without capacitating public healthcare delivery system, which Cabinet described as deplorable. Some of the health centres were operating with no personal protective equipment, proper isolation facilities and bulk oxygen.
What is even more crucial is for us to understand the effectiveness of the vaccines in evaluating the risk the Delta variant poses on the population and the consequences of not adhering to the lockdown measures. Delta has continued to spread globally, including in Zimbabwe, with a proportion of cases resulting in a more severe disease and hospitalisation.
More so now after the World Health Organisation warned that the world was at a dangerous ping in its fight against Covid-19, as vaccines were failing to stem the tide against new variants. This week the world passed the four million recorded Covid-19 deaths.
Zimbabwe needs to do an analysis similar to the one done by the United Arab Emirates last week, which evaluated the vaccines’ effectiveness in reducing severe symptoms and death rates.
According to the UAE National Emergency Crisis and Disaster Management Authority, more than 71% of the total population of the UAE has been vaccinated, representing 91,8% of the eligible group. According to the analysis 16% of total infections was amongst vaccinated individuals, while 84% was amongst non-vaccinated. It also found that 11% of people admitted to the hospitals were vaccinated and 89% were unvaccinated. The rate of individuals admitted to the intensive care units were 92% unvaccinated individuals and 8% vaccinated.
Zimbabwe needs to do such a robust analysis to establish how many people tested positive, with severe symptoms, being hospitalised and are in intensive-care are vaccinated. A total of 819 058 people have received the first dose, while 579 699 have had the two doses of the vaccine.
The analysis will help evaluate if the two doses are enough or whether we need a third dose as did the UAE.
And as the UAE analysis shows, it is more beneficial to be inoculated as those experiencing severe diseases and death are the unvaccinated. Therefore, individuals should be responsible and get vaccinated.
In Europe and the United States, life is slowly normalising, as the populations have been vaccinated. Thus, indeed, Zimbabwe and Africa need to step up vaccination programme to achieve herd immunity.