SENIOR STAFF WRITER
ALARMED by the rising numbers of new coronavirus infections in the country, health experts have implored authorities to do more to prevent the breakout of a second wave of the lethal disease among the populace, the Daily News reports.
On its part, the government has expressed grave concerns over the drop in vigilance among Zimbabweans when it comes to the wearing of face masks in public and the equally critical maintenance of physical distancing.
This comes as the country has recorded 117 new Covid-19 infections between
last Friday and Monday — at a time that more learners who were marooned at home for the last eight months due to the pandemic have just returned to their schools, adding a new complication.
As of yesterday, Zimbabwe had recorded a total of 8 561 known Covid-19 cases, including 254 deaths since the disease first broke out in March this year.
Speaking to the Daily News yesterday, health experts said besides possibly re-introducing a tight national lockdown, authorities also needed to enforce strict adherence to coronavirus regulations if more lives were not to be lost needlessly.
The president of the Zimbabwe Nurses Association, Enock Dongo, was among the experts who warned that the situation in the country required the government to reverse its recent relaxation of Covid-19 regulations.
“The way parents at family level and the government are now lax about the enforcement of coronavirus measures is a recipe for disaster.
“There is a need for the government to reverse some of the steps it has taken to relax necessary measures, including the reopening of schools.
“If the government is serious, we must have another lockdown. We are certainly not yet out of the woods.
“We don’t have equipment in hospitals and we are not yet adequately prepared to deal with this pandemic,” Dongo told the Daily News.
“There is a need for the government to have a re-look into Covid-19 regulations, as there is no more enforcement.
“The current mood in the country is like Covid-19 is over, but we must look at what is happening in other countries. They witnessed a resurgence of the pandemic and some have re-introduced lockdowns.
“We must copy some of their decisions because no one will blame the government. As you know, this is a problem affecting the whole world.
“There is no need for politicking. This is a matter of life and death,” Dongo warned further.
After witnessing slowdowns in some of the countries that were severely affected by the deadly virus — including South Africa, the United States of America (USA) and the United Kingdom (UK) — many of these nations are re-introducing stricter lockdowns in efforts to deal with the resurgence of the pandemic.
This week, South Africa announced the resurgence of the lethal respiratory disease, whose impact on Africa’s most industrialised economy has seen the country being the most hit nation on the continent.
The UK and France have since introduced curfews and tougher regulations, including re-introducing travel bans, following worrying spikes in new coronavirus infections.
Meanwhile, the secretary-general of the Senior Hospital Doctors Association (SHDA), Aaron Musara, has also said that there is an urgent need to tighten national coronavirus containment regulations.
“Cases of Covid-19 are still being diagnosed daily. Since a second wave is still a high probability, there is a need for people to remain vigilant and continue to take precautions.
“Continuing to observe the necessary preventive measures seems to be the best way to go for now,” Musara said.
His counterpart at the Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights (ZAHDR), Norman Matara, also weighed in — saying there was a need for the government and the general public to remain vigilant.
“It’s a bit tricky (to continue relaxing Covid-19 regulations). It’s based on scientific data. As of now, we have few infections and still need to be cautious and follow the regulations,” Matara said.
On its part, the government has said it is worried by the fall in discipline by ordinary people with regards to the strict adherence to wearing masks and maintaining social distancing.
In a presentation of the risk communication and information sub-committee of the national Covid-19 taskforce to the Political Actors Dialogue (Polad) at State House last Friday, Information minister Monica Mutsvangwa said her committee was finding it difficult to convince members of the public to accept that the pandemic was “a new normal” that the country and the world must live with.
“We have been facing the challenge of fake news and misinformation via social media. It has always been a challenge as some Zimbabweans seek to create panic and confusion in the country, as a way of casting government in a negative light.
“We have also experienced the slow acceptance of the need for behavioural change by citizens. We have seen Zimbabweans failing to properly don their masks, large gatherings at funerals and even the emergence of shebeens,” the concerned Mutsvangwa said.
She also emphasised that as long as a vaccine was not yet available, Zimbabweans needed to accept that they now lived under a ‘‘new normal’’.
This comes as authorities have further relaxed the national lockdown by reducing curfew hours and allowing all schools to reopen after seven months’ closures.
However, the final phase of the reopening of public schools countrywide got off to a rocky start, with many teachers failing to turn up for work on Monday — forcing some overwhelmed school heads to send learners back home.
The secretary-general of the National Association for Primary Schools Headmasters (Naph), Kufakunesu Rupere, confirmed to the Daily News that heads of schools were overwhelmed by the situation at their schools — leaving many of them with no choice but to order learners to go back home.
“There is nothing we can do because there are no teachers. We were forced to ask children to go back home because the situation is impossible, especially given that in the case of primary schools we have infants who need special attention.
“As you can imagine, these infants cannot spend a minute on their own, otherwise it is a disaster,” he said.
This comes amid reports that many infant learners at some schools did not have face masks despite the government having promised to provide adequate personal protective equipment to both teachers and learners to safeguard them against the deadly coronavirus.