BY RICHARD MUPONDE
HEALTH experts yesterday warned of a dire situation ahead as the third wave of COVID-19, which has reportedly hit the country in the face of threats posed by the South African and new Indian variants at a time when there are reports of a shortage in COVID-19 vaccines.
They said the country was headed for a peak in terms of coronavirus infections, which raised the need for citizens to get the COVID-19 jab to prevent infection.
Neighbouring South Africa moved to level two lockdown after experiencing a surge in COVID-19 infections in the past weeks, while reports of infections in Zimbabwe show that more people got infected in the past weeks.
For instance, in the past four days, infection rates at Bondolfi Teachers’ College in Masvingo spiked to 94, a situation which has raised alarm over the onset of the third wave.
Last month, the country confirmed the presence of the deadly Indian variant, after it was detected in Kwekwe, which has heightened fears of its spread.
Health expert and Mpilo Central Hospital acting chief executive officer Solwayo Ngwenya told NewsDay that the country was already experiencing the third wave of COVID-19.
“A wave is not just seen by the peak, a wave starts from the bottom, and it’s like a mountain. The infection curve is moving upwards. So what we are seeing is building to the peak, where you see yourselves on the third wave,” he said.
“But the third wave is already here, and this is seen by the new infections being recorded everyday. As long as you are recording new infections, you are already into a wave. What is left now is building up to a crescendo at the top of the mountain, where you will see deaths and
“It’s a matter of when it’s going to hit the peak. My prediction, maybe a few weeks after schools close because there has been super spreading throughout the term especially at boarding schools. Children don’t seem to get sick from the virus and we have a lot of carriers of the virus out there, especially in boarding schools. So when schools close there will be a rapid increase of infections and possible deaths.”
The recent global dashboard statistics on the infection curve in Zimbabwe have revealed increased infections.
On May 26, the country recorded 113 new coronavirus infections, 35 on May 27, 64 on May 28, 15 on May 29 and 11 on May 30, which shows the country is having new infections daily.
Ngwenya said while the current shortage of COVID-19 vaccines the country was experiencing might be a worldwide problem as the demand for them was high, there was need to prevent more infections.
“There is an acute shortage of COVID-19 vaccines worldwide. It’s not only here, the demand for them is too high and rich countries have bought vaccines in advance, that’s why we are having these shortages. It’s difficult to buy vaccines now and get them on time,” he said.
Several vaccination centres in Harare and Bulawayo last week ran out of COVID-19 vaccines and were only serving those who needed the second dose.
Medical and Dental Private Practitioners of Zimbabwe Association president Johannes Marisa said: “South Africa has been hit by a third wave, which is a signal for us to be very cautious, careful and vigilant. We don’t want to be caught unawares like what happened in the second wave in December. The infection curve is on an upward trend. We have witnessed sporadic attacks like the Bondolfi College. We note that we have cluster transmissions.”
He said the shortage of COVID-19 jabs was because government ordered a limited quantity, without anticipating an increase in the number of people seeking to get vaccinated.
Community Working Group on Health executive director Itai Rusike said: “It looks like government underestimated the increased interest by the general public to embrace the national COVID-19 vaccination roll-out programme, with the increased uptake resulting in the current vaccine stock-outs.
“We require a people-centred systems approach that can deliver the vaccines efficiently to the vaccination centres and trace course completion of vaccine regiments so that we can avoid the current unfortunate situation whereby some areas are now running out of the vaccines threatening to erode the gains that had been achieved so far by the national vaccination programme.”
He said the third wave of the virus would likely hit the country hard.
But government yesterday dismissed reports that there was a shortage of vaccines in the country, saying the problem was created by the uneven distribution system which saw other vaccination centres experiencing stock-outs.
COVID-19 taskforce national co-ordinator Agnes Mahomva told NewsDay that the country had enough vaccines and people should not panic.
“What you are talking about are just social media issues. We don’t have a shortage of vaccines. What’s happening is that some centres experience stock-outs while others have huge stocks,” she said.
“So if you go to a centre and find there is a stock-out, that does not mean we have a shortage of vaccines. The Ministry of Health and Child Care is re-distributing the vaccines from centres which have stockpiles to those experiencing stock-outs.
“Let me also say that government has procured vaccines although I don’t have the quantities off hand, but we are going to receive them starting from tomorrow (today). So we have enough vaccines for the vaccination programme.”
Zimbabwe launched a countrywide inoculation exercise in February this year, targeting to achieve herd immunity which is about 60% of the population, but has so far inoculated 675 678 people.