‘Covid-19 will wipe us out if we are not careful’…health expert warns as cases keep rising

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Tamari Chikiwa


FEAR and uncertainty cloud the world as the renewed Covid 19 threat characterised by new variant strains of the pandemic has resulted in many countries effecting stringent lockdowns.

Zimbabwe also reintroduced tough lockdown restrictions following an upsurge in infections and deaths which have been attributed to a second wave of the pandemic.

Government officials and the general populace are fretting over Covid-19 fatalities and infections especially after recording 1 365 cases and 34 people succumbing to the pandemic on  Tuesday last week.

The status quo doubled with scepticisms and myths around the deadly virus, results in people and administrators having more questions than answers as no one really knows what their future holds.

Recording 18 675 cases and 446 deaths as of Friday is something that Zimbabwe never imagined.

During such moments of fear and uncertainty, the world looks up to experts to at least shed light and provide some answers.

Eager to know about this whole animal called Covid-19, how  it found  its way into Africa, if there is a vaccine for this virus and what should be done to mitigate it’s effects and contain spiralling cases in Zimbabwe, the Daily News reporter Tamary Chikiwa caught up with  Mpilo Central Hospital’s acting clinical director Professor Solwayo Ngwenya who shed some light on the subject.

Ngwenya emphasised that Covid-19 is real and people should do whatever it takes to protect themselves from this deadly virus.

Q: Would you describe or define the Covid-19 virus and shed light on its origin and causes?

A: Coronavirus is a new infectious virus transmitted mainly from small animals like pangolin and bats that’s why we are not used to this because it’s an infection of animals.

Once it gets to human beings, we have no immune defence against this infection.

The Covid-19 virus spreads primarily through droplets of saliva or discharge from the nose when an infected person coughs or sneezes, so it’s important that you also practice respiratory etiquette (for example, by coughing into a flexed elbow)

Q: What are the symptoms of Covid 19?

A: There may be no symptoms of coronavirus at all and 80 percent of people may be infected without knowing.

Those who go on to get ill may just start with a small irritating sore throat which they may ignore, they may feel flue-like symptoms then it escalates to high temperatures of more than 38 degrees.

The major problem is that you feel very tired, the whole body is run down, you may have a headache, feel very weak and short of breath.

The other big symptom includes formation of blood clots or one may suddenly collapse.

However, people should note that Covid-19 is a very cunning disease where you might not even have symptoms but just die a sudden death like when you collapse without falling sick

Q: How long does it take for one to realise that they are Covid-19 positive?

A: Usually within two to five days one can realise they have the virus especially those who develop the above-mentioned symptoms after infection. There are those who do not develop symptoms and they might not feel anything at all.

Q: There are beliefs that one can use natural remedies to deal with this virus, how far true is this and as a health expert do you recommend this?

A: People are using all sorts of natural remedies. You know that Covid-19 is a viral disease which is almost like flue so people are using home remedies.

Some people are claiming that this helps them, if it’s helping them there is no problem.

But those who are not feeling well we don’t encourage them just to be doing natural remedies at home without seeking medical attention first. They should first get medical advice as a matter of urgency.

Q: When one tests positive, is it a must that they should be isolated at isolation centres/clinics/hospitals or one can self isolate at home and eventually heal?

A: Once someone tests positive there are rapid response teams in all the towns who come and check on them.

They inspect their homes and check if it’s possible to isolate them at their homes if they have no symptoms. If they have symptoms, they are taken to quarantine centres for isolation.

People should work closely with rapid response teams because they also do contact tracing among other services.

They will advise you whether to self-isolate at home or go to a health centre depending on a particular stage of the disease where you would be at.

Q: There are reports saying some vaccines are coming to Africa, do you support the idea of the vaccines? If yes/no kindly state reasons.

A: Yes, there are reports that there are some vaccines that have been found. The most important thing is to test and analyse them, if they are effective and scientifically approved then l will recommend the use of these vaccines.

Personally, l will take the vaccine because as we speak our bodies don’t have an immune system to fight the coronavirus so the vaccine is what can help our bodies.

l would encourage everyone else to do so because it is going to protect you.

Even if you were to be stubborn and refuse to take the vaccine, the virus will vaccinate you forcibly by infecting you and if you are lucky you survive or unluckily you die so it’s either you voluntarily take the vaccine or it vaccinates you forcibly.

Q: Given the upsurge of this lethal disease especially in our country what do you think Zimbabwe must do to contain or mitigate this virus? 

A: Currently, Zimbabwe does not have much resources at its disposal to mitigate the virus.

The sole option it has is implementing lockdowns, mass testing, contact tracing and quarantining people.

We don’t have vaccines yet and the only way is to effect this lockdown so as to minimise contact of people hence reduce infections.

Q: What challenges is the government facing concerning these measures and what are the weaknesses you have noticed within our health sector in dealing with Covid 19?

A:The major challenge or rather weakness in the health sector is incapacitation and lack of resources.

Firstly, we are not producing our own PPE and we rely on imported stuff of which some countries might not be willing to sell to us during the moment when we need them.

Just like any other government, Zimbabwe is not really prepared for coronavirus. Almost every county is struggling to contain this virus. Also, there is a challenge of awareness among health workers because it is difficult to educate all health workers at once.

The key thing is not to try and put your health facility under strain because you won’t cope because the virus is a big blow.

Accommodate patients that your health centre is capable of dealing with. The idea is never to allow the virus to widespread.

Q: What are the weaknesses of the general public in dealing with this pandemic and what do you suggest as a solution? 

A: The biggest weakness within the community is being sceptical. People don’t want to listen to advice being given by health experts and the government over months and months.

People are very dismissive, there are a lot of myths and hearsays so while people were dithering and taking the virus for a joke, it got strength and is now sweeping across the community. People are not taking it seriously.

The solution lies in mass educating people.

People are not yet educated as far as the virus is concerned, if you see they still hold mass rallies and parties.

It’s time people get informed and stamp out these gatherings because they super spread the virus.

Also, as an individual the solution lies in you listening to advice from government and health experts and religiously following lockdown measures.

Q: Would you kindly give us your word of advice.

A: I think now everyone agrees that this pandemic is deadly, l am sure no one is dismissive. If we are not careful it’s going to wipe out a lot of people.

My warning is that let’s follow all the regulations that we have because as l said that we have no vaccine yet so the lockdown is the only option we have to protect ourselves.

We don’t have a natural immunity or vaccines at our disposal.

People who are going to survive are those who are going to follow all the rules and be disciplined.

The virus as we speak now is highly infectious and can kill you within days.

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