INDICATIONS that Zimbabwe is lagging behind in terms of its COVID-19 response are quite worrisome, particularly at a time when the country has opened up various economic sectors and examination centres for students to write public examinations.
With the acting deputy director of mental health in the Health and Child Care ministry, Sacrifice Chirisa, recently admitting that the opening of the economic sphere brought with it challenges that have seen a rise in cases of COVID-19, we may need to rethink our strategy as a country.
The fact that our death toll has risen from the initial four to the current nine, 734 active cases, we need to find ways of ensuring that the cases do not continue to shoot up. The frontline health workers in the war against COVID-19 should be the first port of call given that many of them are at risk in light of inadequate personal protective equipment (PPE). The irony is that while they are fighting to help flatten the curve, they themselves become exposed, and, as has already happened in some cases, become infected.
Government, therefore, needs to do more in terms of resource mobilisation to ensure that frontline workers are protected so that they can effectively discharge their duties without themselves being at risk. It is indeed worrisome when major hospitals run out of PPE, as that means they will not be able to attend to new cases. The fact that 13 staff members at Mpilo Central Hospital in Bulawayo tested positive to COVID-19 is a clear demonstration of the risks that our healthcare workers face in the campaign against this virulent disease that has killed tens of thousands of people across the world.
Government is duty-bound to abide by the High Court ruling made in April to ensure the provision of PPE to all healthcare workers serving at public health facilities and those deployed in the field to trace contacts made by individuals who tested positive for COVID-19. This is a critical step in ensuring that the spread of the disease is minimised, otherwise all our efforts in this campaign will go to waste.
In many ways, one could argue that the relaxation of some of the lockdown measures is directly connected to the spike in deaths and cases as a lot of people have since adopted a casual approach in terms of using face masks and sanitisers as well as ensuring that social distancing is maintained. Quite clearly, the fear of COVID-19 has gone down. In fact, this has actually created a false sense of security, with some people even claiming COVID-19 is a myth in Zimbabwe in light of the relatively low number of deaths and confirmed cases compared to other countries.
But we need to remain alert, and government needs to scale up and tighten its intervention and preventive measures.