It’s not yet time to relax: Experts… cite Covid control, vaccines as key going forward

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Mugove Tafirenyika



WHILE health experts have welcomed the country’s declining Covid-19 deaths and infections, they are urging continuing national vigilance and observance of all public management measures of the lethal disease.

In addition, the experts have also advised authorities to further ramp up their awareness campaigns for coronavirus vaccines — to engender more public confidence in the jabs among citizens.

This comes after Zimbabwe took delivery of 200 000 SinoPharm vaccines last week, that were donated by the Chinese government — kick-starting the country’s national inoculation programme.

It also comes as authorities have warned of stern measures against social media abusers who are misguidedly working to discredit the vaccines.

Speaking to the Daily News yesterday, the health experts observed that Zimbabwe was on the right path in its efforts to contain Covid-19 — adding that the situation in the country was set to improve following the procurement of more vaccines.

Among those who were optimistic about the pandemic’s current trajectory was the president of the Zimbabwe Nurses Association (Zina), Enock Dongo, who said the continuing fall in Covid-19 deaths was “a step in the right direction”.

“The drop in the number of deaths is encouraging because it shows that we are on the right path and citizens now appreciate the need to take precautionary measures. It also explains why we are now recording fewer cases per day.

“We are, however, worried by the information gap regarding the vaccines that we are using, in terms of the efficacy and potential side effects.

“The government should embark on a rigorous media campaign if they are confident about the vaccine. We are not seeing this, which explains why there is a lot of misinformation that is now causing scepticism among the populace,” Dongo told the Daily News.

“We have no doubt that vaccination is the only way to go, but we think that the government is lacking in terms of information dissemination.

“While we are vaccinating, we must also continue to test more people because if we don’t do that we might end up recording more cases since it is clear that the virus is in the communities.

“This could lead to a third wave that will reverse all the gains we have made so far,” Dongo said further.

The secretary general of the Senior Hospital Doctors Association (SHDA), Aaron Musara, also said they were encouraged that the country was now flattening the curve in terms of new infections.

“According to the situation report we have, it is so far good. The number of cases and deaths is falling and that is a good sign.

“However, while we have been flattening the curve so far, it is important to keep in mind that lockdowns are not a long-term solution.

“The government needs to focus on ensuring people have bought into the prevention measures, as well as the vaccination programme and that businesses and schools finalise their infection prevention and control measures … while we await more vaccines.

“Confidence building is paramount if the confidence of the people is to be improved to get more acceptance of vaccinations,” Musara said.

On his part, former Health minister Henry Madzorera said while progress had been made in the fight against Covid-19, authorities needed to close the information gap on vaccines.

“Moving forward, there is need for the government to carry the people with it. Transparency is key in all processes for the vaccination programme to work.

“The government cannot just say if you don’t want to take the vaccine you are free to opt out. Hear the people out … address their concerns … and all the conspiracy theories scientifically.

“Zimbabweans deserve better, and information is key. We continue to emphasise the importance of properly conducted clinical trials in the field to detect adverse events,” Madzorera told the Daily News.

This comes as President Emmerson Mnangagwa has urged Zimbabweans to embrace the ongoing Covid-19 national inoculation programme, saying the vaccines are completely safe.

The country commenced its vaccination campaign on Thursday, with Vice President Constantino Chiwenga — who is also Zimbabwe’s Health minister — becoming the first local to take the available SinoPharm jabs.

Addressing mourners during the burial of the late former police deputy commissioner, Moses Mpofu, at the National Heroes Acre in Harare at the weekend, Mnangagwa also said the country would emerge victorious from its fight against the Covid-19 pandemic that — as of Friday — had infected 35 710 citizens and killed 1 430.

“With greater discipline and all the measures we are putting in place, Covid-19 will be defeated and our nation will flourish again.

“Early in the week, we took delivery of our first batch of vaccines against the pandemic. The vaccination programme started rolling out this last Thursday with our Vice President … Chiwenga receiving the first jab and many other frontline workers joining him.

“The vaccine is safe and an effective antidote against Covid-19, and indeed part of our weaponry in fighting the virus.

“All of us, including myself, as the president, Cabinet ministers and all officials will get vaccinated and so should you my dear Zimbabweans.

“If we are to protect ourselves, our families and help our nation towards returning to normalcy, we need to be vaccinated,” Mnangagwa said.

Meanwhile, Chiwenga has warned that authorities will soon descend heavily on people who abuse social media to disseminate false information on the coronavirus fight.

Speaking in Parliament on Thursday, Chiwenga said authorities were concerned by the increasingly egregious falsehoods being peddled on social media, including with regards to Covid-19 vaccines.

Responding to a question by Zanu PF Senator for Mashonaland Central Alice Chimbudzi in Parliament, on what the government was doing to curb the spread of falsehoods on social media — especially on coronavirus vaccines — Chiwenga said culprits “must not cry foul if the law takes its course”.

“We do not deny people to go on social media, but we expect them to be responsible … and not engage in the dissemination of fake news.

“If you are insulted you feel pain, but if you are inflicted with pain you complain. It is good when you enjoy it on others, but you complain when that is now done to you,” he observed.

Mwari paakasika munhu haana kuisa mutemo, asi akazoisa mutemo maererano nokutadza kwedu (When God created mankind, he didn’t give us commandments but did so later because of our transgressions).

“What is happening is now out of control. We need to have a law that curbs such behaviour on social media. It is uncalled for. In other countries they are banning such behaviour,” Chiwenga said further.

“We do not want people who abuse social media. Whenever they cannot sleep, they engage in insulting other people.

“People cannot buy clothes for themselves, but they will be busy concentrating on insulting others on social media. People create fake accounts and get themselves into social groups.

“You find that one person will be changing accounts and insulting people throughout the night. So, those with the responsibility of coming up with a law are working on that,” Chiwenga added.

‘Millions going

hungry in Zim’

Tarisai Machakaire



MILLIONS of Zimbabweans, especially those living in rural areas, are facing hunger and starvation, a new report by relief agencies says.

The report by the Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee (Zimvac) — a grouping of representatives from the government, United Nations, civil society organisations and technical agencies working in collaboration with the World Food Programme (WFP) — said the situation had been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic.

“It is expected that the 2020 food insecurity will spill over into 2021. Zimvac estimates that around 5,5 million rural people will be food insecure at the peak of the hunger season from January to March 2021.

“This prevalence of food insecurity is one of the highest the country has recorded in the recent past, and the data suggests the need for continued support to households, to stop them slipping into chronic food insecurity and malnutrition.

“The Covid-19 pandemic imposed new threats in an already critical food security situation arising mainly from the prevailing poor macro-economic conditions and consecutive years of drought,” the report said.

This comes as people with disabilities have been ranked among the most vulnerable in Zimbabwe during the Covid-19 era by the United Nations, as their monthly incomes have shrunk by 50 percent.

The WFP estimated that by the end of last year, the number of food insecure Zimbabweans surged by almost 50 percent — climbing to a mammoth 8,6 million people, owing to the combined effects of drought, economic recession and the coronavirus pandemic.

“Subsistence farming families who make up three-quarters of Zimbabwe’s population and produce most of its food have been the most affected.

“The Covid-19 pandemic imposed new challenges on the economy. The informal sector was the worst hit. The government’s lockdowns starting in March (2020) effectively closed down informal markets.

“Formal business also struggled to retain their employment capacities, leading to a number of firms cutting down the size of their workforce,” Zimvac reported further.

This comes as authorities are battling to cushion vulnerable households, with only 400 000 of them currently benefiting from the government-sponsored scheme which gives them $300 a month.

Zimbabwe is currently under a strict lockdown which was re-imposed by authorities at the beginning of the year following a spike in deaths of people infected by the coronavirus pandemic.

Monetary Policy webinar: 

Registration closes today



HE Daily News webinar on the Monetary Policy Statement (MPS) is set for tomorrow, amid calls by the organisers for participants to register early to avoid disappointment.

To be officiated by Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) governor John Mangudya, the webinar is meant to provide the central bank chief with a platform to get feedback from captains of industry and commerce as well as from representatives of professional bodies following the unveiling of the MPS last Thursday.

Issues likely to come under discussion include the target set by monetary authorities to reduce annual inflation from the current 362,6 percent to 10 percent by the end of the year, upward review of  the bank rate policy to 40 percent from 35 percent as well as the mid-term lending rate to 30 percent from 25 percent.

Additionally, the MPS increased daily withdrawal limits to $2 000 in addition to introducing a $50 note.

Daily News commercial director Lewis Chikurunhe described the webinar as a platform for captains of industry and commerce to listen to insights on the MPS from the horse’s mouth and to pose any questions that they might have.

“Participation is free. For bookings, we are encouraging those interested to kindly get in touch with our events team since participation in the webinar is only for those who would have registered prior. To avoid disappointment, register now,” he said.

“The interest in the event has been encouraging. Many are likely to seek more clarity on the central bank governor’s ambitious pronouncements. We have received registration enquiries even from beyond Zimbabwe’s borders. This is not surprising given the important issues likely to come under discussion.

“Finance and Economic Development minister Mthuli Ncube will also grace the highly-anticipated webinar,” added Chikurunhe.

He also attributed the huge interest in the event to the high powered panel that has been put in place by the organisers.

“The panel that will interface with the RBZ governor is also geared for the occasion. It is made up of knowledgeable and experienced people from key sectors,” said Chikurunhe.

The panel consists of Institute of Chartered Accountants of Zimbabwe president Duduzile Shinya; Bankers Association of Zimbabwe president Ralph Watungwa; Confederation of Zimbabwe Retailers president Denford Mutashu and Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries economic affairs committee member Jimmy Psilos.

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