AMID soaring deaths and numbers of people infected by the lethal coronavirus, concerned health experts warned anew yesterday that the country was facing a Covid-19 storm which could have devastating consequences for the nation and its people.
In addition, the experts also told the Daily News that authorities now needed to move with renewed vigour to revise and monitor the current coronavirus restrictions, to avert a looming catastrophe among many complacent communities.
This comes as the government has deferred the opening of schools this year, following rising Covid-19 deaths and infections in the country.
It also comes amid a worrying slip of discipline among many Zimbabwean communities, with a New Year’s eve gathering in Harare’s high density suburb of Mbare, for example, highlighting the growing lack of vigilance that locals now have regarding the deadly respiratory disease.
Amid the rapidly increasing local infections and deaths, health experts warned yesterday that the new wave of the lethal virus could have dire consequences for the country — especially in the next two months, unless there was a marked change in attitudes by ordinary people.
The experts also feared that the new Covid-19 strain, which is causing havoc in neighbouring South Africa, was already in the country — especially in the southern parts of Zimbabwe.
Among the experts concerned by the rapid national spread of the second wave is the secretary-general of the Senior Hospital Doctors Association (SHDA), Aaron Musara, who warned that the country was perilously close to being devastated by the disease.
“Our end of January to beginning of February period does not look good when one looks at the current spread of the disease.
“There is a great need for the enforcement of Covid-19 mitigation measures, while encouraging the public to observe the preventative measures for their own good,” Musara told the Daily News.
On his part, the president of the Zimbabwe Nurses Association (Zina), Enock Dongo, also warned that the disease could spiral out of control by March unless authorities took tough fresh measures to mitigate the growing ill-discipline by ordinary people.
“The issue is that we may fail to contain Covid-19 if it comes in the rampant way like what is happening in South Africa. To be honest, our health system is in shambles and cases are rising.
“Our health system does not have the capacity to handle a huge number of patients at a time because we have no adequate infrastructure and our frontline workers are not adequately equipped,” Dongo said.
He called for stronger measures by authorities, such as tightening border controls and banning flights from countries perceived to be epicentres of the new Covid-19 strain, including South Africa.
“We have seen other countries cancelling flights to and from South Africa … yet we have allowed people in without Covid-19 negative test results into the country.
“People also no longer self isolate. We are being reckless as a country. It’s a time bomb,” Dongo further told the Daily News.
He also bemoaned the disdain that he said was being shown by ordinary people towards the disease — which indifference was dangerous for the country.
“It’s a pity that most people up to now do not believe that Covid-19 is real. There is a dangerous low risk perception that I am seeing, especially in the rural areas that we are visiting.
“It has become increasingly dangerous as most people who came from South Africa have visited relatives in the rural areas,” Dongo warned further.
“Government is also relaxed. There is a need to enforce the restrictive measures as we have seen in South Africa.
“Public transport is another super spreader. Buses are being loaded to full capacity, with no physical distancing.
“Zupco buses are being filled to capacity. We see the commuting public packed in poorly ventilated commuter omnibuses. Yes, the government has banned kombis, but we are seeing them on the roads.
“The government has to clamp down on all this. Night clubs are being opened, the curfew is not being respected. Clearly we are being reckless as a nation. This will surely cost us,” Dongo also told the Daily News.
This comes as a total of 363 known people had died in the country by New Year’s eve — among them prominent Bulawayo businessman Worthwhile Mugabe and Zanu PF European Union and United Kingdom chairperson, Masimba Tawengwa — both of whom became the latest high profile people to succumb to the lethal virus.
Former MDC interim leader, Thokozani Khupe, also announced on Wednesday that she had contracted the novel coronavirus, a few days after she had attended the party’s extra-ordinary congress in Harare.
All this also comes as most of the upmarket hospitals in the country are said to be flooded with people showing symptoms of Covid-19 — although authorities are yet to confirm this.
It also comes as the government has copped a lot of flak over an illegal New Year’s eve gathering in Mbare, where thousands of people — with some of them without masks — gathering for an unsanctioned music jamboree featuring various township artistes.
The illegal gathering has heightened calls for the re-introduction of tougher lockdown measures like what has happened in South Africa.
On Monday, South Africa president Cyril Ramaphosa re-introduced tougher restrictions as his country’s coronavirus infections breached the one million mark.
Ramaphosa also wholly banned alcohol sales, re-introduced a tougher curfew and imposed hefty fines on those breaching lockdown measures, including a mandatory jail term of six months on people caught without wearing face masks.
He also readily admitted that South Africa was “at an extremely dangerous point in the pandemic and action had to be taken.”