Government sweats over Covid-19 resurgence threat

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THE government is having a hard time over citizens’ resistance to adhere to preventive measures against the lethal coronavirus, including putting on face masks, amid reports the country is set to be hit by a second wave of the pandemic.
This comes as the World Health Organisation (WHO) in its epidemiological update revealed that this week alone over 3,3 million new cases have been reported globally.

With Zimbabwe as of yesterday having recorded 8 410 Covid-19 cases, including 246 deaths, Information
minister Monica Mutsvangwa warned of a devastating recurrence of the lethal virus.

In a presentation of the Risk Communication and Information Subcommittee of the national Covid-19 taskforce to Political Actors Dialogue (Polad) at State House yesterday, 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 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,” Mutsvangwa said.

She added that the subcommittee she chairs was also facing funding challenges for extended programmes
because “we need to keep the message rolling”. Mutsvangwa said on a more positive note, despite
their seeming resistance, citizens agree that the subcommittee is doing its best to ensure that the message on
the need for them to protect themselves and prevent the spread of Covid-19 reached them.

“Zimbabwe has some of the lowest infection numbers in the region and this is partly due to the Covid-19 education and information drive by the subcommittee.

“There was a buy-in and tremendous support from community leaders, opinion makers, influencers and other stakeholders which made it possible for key messaging on Covid-19 to be disseminated timeously and smoothly.

“We will continue to spread the message on the need to adhere to protective and preventative behaviour
because we are not yet out of the woods, despite having fared better than most nations so far,” said the minister.

Mutsvangwa also emphasised that as long as a vaccine has not yet been found for treatment of Covid-19,
Zimbabweans, much like the rest of the world, have to live under a ‘new normal’.

The country has opened up most of its sectors, including industry, commercial, aviation and tourism, after
months of closure due to the lockdown. In the education sector, schools have been reopening in phases, starting
with examination classes on September 28, followed by classes writing examinations next year while the rest of the
students begin classes tomorrow.

In its October report, the European Centre for Disease Control and Prevention said the Covid-19 situation in the
region “represents a major threat to public health”.

“In most countries, notification rates have increased in certain regions, with extremely high levels in some
areas.

“Moreover, in addition to the substantial increases seen in most countries among younger age groups, notification rates have also increased in older age groups. Reported test positivity has been steadily increasing since August and has shown a marked escalation in recent weeks, pointing to a real increase in rates of viral transmission, rather than just a rise in reported cases attributable to increased testing,” the report reads.

On the other hand, WHO Africa reported in September that the situation in countries in the Eastern Mediterranean
region including Tunisia and Morocco was “extremely worrying, with more people being infected every day”.

“While an upsurge of cases was expected due to countries easing restrictions after months of lockdowns and
with increased population mobility, governments cannot continue to respond as they have been doing since the
start of the pandemic.

“It is no longer enough to only test people coming to hospitals and clinics who are already displaying symptoms. The more people who are tested, the more cases appropriately identified, isolated, and the more contacts who are traced, the more effective the efforts at containing transmission will be.

“Individuals and communities must remain vigilant. We must find ways to address the resurgence of Covid-19
cases and limit the spread of infection.

“Millions of people are still at risk. Social measures such as mask use, physical distancing, and proper hygiene
measures must be strictly followed,” the WHO report reads.

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