BY MOSES MATENGA/RICHARD MUPONDE/PHYLLIS MBANJE
WORLD Health Organisation director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has warned that the world was at a dangerous point in its fight against COVID-19 as vaccines were failing to stem the tide against new variants.
Much of the world is experiencing a surge in new infections driven by new variants, Delta, Alpha, Gamma and Beta, strains of the coronavirus first identified in India, United Kingdom, Brazil and South Africa.
“The world is at a perilous point in this pandemic. We have just passed the tragic milestone of four million recorded COVID-19 deaths, which likely underestimates the overall toll,” the WHO boss told a media briefing.
“Compounded by fast moving variants and shocking inequity in vaccination, far too many countries in every region of the world are seeing sharp spikes in cases and hospitalisation. Variants are currently winning the race against vaccines because of inequitable vaccine production and distribution, which also threatens the global economic recovery.”
WHO’s weekly report for up to July 4 showed a 23% spike in new deaths in Africa, the highest in the world compared to a 7% increase in the Western Pacific and 6% in Europe. Overall, global deaths fell by 7%, indicating that Africa was facing the biggest threat from the new infections.
Its data also showed that the Delta variant was in 96 countries, and Alpha in 172 while Beta and Gamma have been confirmed in 120 and 72 countries, respectively. Worryingly, many of the new cases include fully vaccinated people, calling into question the effectiveness of the current vaccines against the new variants.
In Zimbabwe, local health experts said the country requires a total shutdown and a clampdown on unnecessary movements to fight the growing threat of the third wave of the COVID-19 virus which is currently cutting through its largely unvaccinated population or risks being the new Brazil, alarmed health experts said yesterday.
“It is very important for the nation to be vaccinated and we have to widen our scope of action to include even drastic measures that include total lockdowns for now at the same time promoting social distancing, masking up and up our testing and contact tracing,” Medical and Dental Private Practitioners Association, Johannes Marisa said.
He added that the COVID-19 situation was worsening and blamed the people for being complacent.
He said the media was not amplifying the perilous situation the country was faced with, and warned that Zimbabwe could be the new Brazil, referring to the South American country which is averaging nearly 50 000 new cases per day, with 62 504 recorded on Tuesday.
New COVID-19 infections are reaching new peaks in the southern African country, with 19 deaths and 809 new cases on Sunday, 33 deaths and 1 540 infections and 1 949 new infections and 28 deaths on Tuesday.
“We are nowhere near the peak. We are climbing a mountain and the figures are likely to get higher,” said Mpilo Hospital acting chief executive officer Solwayo Ngwenya.
He said that the current figures were just a “tip of the iceberg”.
“The figures you are seeing are just the tip of an iceberg. The virus is much wider and we are only having reported cases of those who are testing, there are many others in the community who haven’t been tested and carry the virus while infecting others,” Ngwenya said.
“This scenario is going to play itself out until we get to a point where we get mass sickness and mass hospitalisation will be needed. Many people will rush to the hospital looking for help and we will possibly see us recording mass
Without a radical behavioural change, Zimbabwe may have to face a fourth wave, he added.
On total lockdown he said: “It is difficult because the economy needs to function, at the same time the population does not want to take this as urgent as it should be and start changing behaviour and this time unfortunately the virus is going to win big time.”
Zimbabwe Nurses Association president Enock Dongo said nurses had been hard hit by the pandemic and if no measures were put in place, the country will soon have hospitals without nurses.
“In terms of our constituency, it’s not safe at all because we have seen a lot of them testing positive to COVID-19 and this is a cause for concern and going forward, if measures are not put in place, we might end up having hospitals without the nurses because the moment they test positive they isolate,” he said.
He said the health delivery system was now overstretched considering that nurses have been flocking out of the country since January this year for greener pastures.
“On the way forward, I think there is supposed to be a total lockdown which was done last year so that only essential people are allowed to travel,” Dongo said.
“It is better we save the people now than to wait until cases get to alarming levels … if we don’t do that (total lockdown), the economy is not going to improve because we are going to prolong the containment of COVID-19.”
He added: “If we don’t manage it now, we will have a lockdown that will be more than a month because the moment we reach 4 000 cases a day, the rate of infection will be very high and we will need a lot more time to deal with this, so timeous intervention is key.”
Meanwhile, government yesterday ordered that all tertiary colleges close down.
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