Leonard Ncube in Victoria Falls
ZIMBABWE yesterday marked a year after it reported its first Covid-19 positive case in Victoria Falls, triggering unprecedented events that have seen the country recording 36 652 cases, 34 249 recoveries and 1 510 deaths by Friday.
Zimbabwe reported its first Covid-19 positive case in Victoria Falls on 20 March last year when a local resident who had returned from a visit to the United Kingdom tested positive. The patient, who became known as Case One, became the second to recover from the disease. The first person to die of Covid-19 in the country was journalist Zororo Makamba, who died on March 23 last year at a Harare hospital. Since then, the country has seen a massive disruption of economic and social activities including a disrupted school calendar, among others.
To mark the day, the Government has dispatched 70 000 doses of Sinopharm vaccine to vaccinate everyone between the ages of 18 and 65 years in the resort city. Vaccination in other parts of the country is done on a phased approach. The mass vaccination exercise will start tomorrow at health facilities and selected public places.
Health and Child Care Deputy Minister Dr John Mangwiro who arrived yesterday in the resort city to launch the mass vaccination programme said the Government was concerned about the “ghost status” the city has become as a result of the pandemic.
“Today is the 20th of March 2021, exactly a year after Zimbabwe had its first Covid-19 case in Victoria Falls which marked the entrance of the terrible Covid-19. This is the time when we learnt that the disease needed a lot of acting and the most important position that was taken by President Mnangagwa was the first lockdown and that was effective.
“We are continuing to move to make sure that the opening up to business is strengthened hence we are here in Victoria Falls. We know that Victoria Falls is a town where tourism is the main business so we are here knowing that tourists and residents need to be protected from the virus. We are here today to make sure all Victoria Falls residents get a jab so that when the tourism industry restarts everyone is safe.”
Victoria Falls, according to the 2012 census has a population of 33 000 people and Government has set aside 70 000 doses for the city to cover two rounds of jabs per individual. Zimbabwe started administering the Sinopharm vaccine from China early this month under a phased approach.
Phase One targeted frontline workers who include health workers, Zimra and immigration officials, members of the security forces and the media. The second phase which started last week is targeting teachers, tobacco merchants, their workers and those in the hospitality industry. The third phase, targeting the rest of the population will be the last as the country targets to vaccinate 10 million people to achieve a herd immunity. Vaccination is free and voluntary.
Health experts said a herd immunity is a form of indirect protection from an infectious disease that can occur when a sufficient percentage of a population has become immune to an infection, whether through vaccination or previous infections, thereby reducing the likelihood of infection for individuals who lack immunity.
Dr Mangwiro said the Government chose to pilot general populace vaccination programme in the tourism capital so as to restore confidence in the tourism industry which has been among the most affected as it led to closure of hotels and other tour activities resulting in loss of livelihoods.
“What closed this town and hotels is health and hotels are empty and the town is quiet but we cannot suddenly open it without making sure people are safe. We want everyone to remain alive hence we are encouraging people to get their jabs.
“Here in Victoria Falls we are aiming to make sure that when the industry picks up all people who visit this place are protected and all residents in surrounding areas are protected. We want to make sure this is a safe place to be in as we aim to protect every other Zimbabwean.”
Chief Director for Curative Services in the Ministry, Dr Maxwell Mareza Hove said the doses for Victoria Falls were in Bulawayo yesterday enroute to the resort city for the programme that starts tomorrow.
Acting Hwange District Medical Officer Dr Fungai Mvura-Musinami said the city was excited to be the first to implement massive vaccination which will improve the health and also revive Victoria Falls in terms of tourism and livelihoods.-@ncubeleon