ZIMBABWE, like most African countries, has been easing Covid-19 lockdown measures amid a low infection rate, reduced deaths, less hospitalisations and increasing vaccination.
On Tuesday, through a statutory instrument, the government lifted restrictions on the number of people allowed at permitted gatherings.
It also allowed gatherings such as funerals, weddings, sports activities and any other non-political meetings to take place without police notification.
What is worrying is that the easing of restrictions is taking place at a time when there is noticeable evidence the citizens are beginning to lax in the midst of the pandemic, which is now a new normal. While masking up, social distancing and sanitising remain in place, they are rarely being practiced especially in high density suburbs, growth points, rural areas and market places.
It appears it’s now business as usual in these places and as we get into winter, certainly danger is lurking. We face prospects of a surge, with vengeance, in new Covid-19 infections.
It is with this in mind that we believe the government should not have hastily lifted restrictions on public gatherings — they are super spreaders — as we go into winter where the virus spreads rapidly.
We should have taken a cautious approach.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has advised against rushed removal of restrictions, warning the “virus is dangerous, and it continues to evolve before our very eyes”.
“We’re concerned that a narrative has taken hold in some countries that because of vaccines, and because of omicron’s high transmissibility and lower severity, preventing transmission is no longer possible and no longer necessary,” WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said recently.
“Nothing could be further from the truth. More transmission means more disease.”
The WHO is dead right and their advice should have been followed to the letter. Surely, countries cannot and should not be expected to go back to hard lockdowns, but they should not rely on vaccinations alone to solve the pandemic problem.
We hope that besides the successful vaccination programme the government is ramping up, the country will continue, as recommended by WHO, testing, surveillance and sequencing.
It’s common cause the lifting of restrictions was and continues to be triggered by Covid-19 fatigue as citizens become weary of disruptions to pre-pandemic life. But a surge in infections will be catastrophic, especially to countries like Zimbabwe where the health delivery system is weak.
Let us be cautious in our approach in fighting the virulent disease.