SENIOR STAFF WRITER
HEALTH experts have implored Zimbabweans not to let their guard down in the fight against Covid-19, warning that disregarding necessary protocols to manage the disease could lead to a deadly third wave despite the ongoing national vaccination programme.
This comes as President Emmerson Mnangagwa has relaxed the hardened national coronavirus lockdown, to allow more economic activity and freer movement of people across the country.
Among those who urged the nation to maintain its guard against the lethal virus was Mpilo Hospital acting chief executive, Solwayo Ngwenya, who warned that Covid-19 was still a danger to society.
“Of course, there is a big risk of a third wave. I think there is going to be a build-up of community infections and there will be a lot of undetected community infections because chances are very high that people will relax.
“Some people will not take measures seriously and there is also a new variant … which is very transmissible, such that one person can infect a lot of people at one go.
“So, it’s likely there will be a build-up which will erupt into a third wave — which is highly likely to come faster and in a massive form than the previous ones,” the respected Ngwenya told the Daily News.
“My general warning to the people of Zimbabwe is that this is the time that we are needed to be at our best behaviour. If we behave well, we will be able to contain the situation.
“But if we behave badly by disregarding all these lockdown measures, we are in for a terrible time. There will be a lot of tears shed this time.
“Having survived the first two waves, this will not make one a champion in the third wave which might flatten you and put you six feet under. So, people have to be extremely careful,” Ngwenya added.
The president of the Senior Hospital Doctors Association (SHDA), Shingai Nyaguse-Chiurunge, also warned that the relaxation of the lockdown restrictions was not “a passport for citizens to behave irresponsibly”.
“Lockdowns are just supposed to be an interim measure to prevent hospitals being overwhelmed while government puts in place measures to safely reopen the country.
“There is always a risk of an increase in infections. So, people should do their part and continue to observe preventive measures.
“We hope by now businesses and schools have adjusted their processes to minimise infections,” Nyaguse-Chiurunge told the Daily News.
She also urged authorities to speed up the vaccination programme to thwart the possibility of a third wave.
“The vaccine rollout should be accelerated and we hope government will procure enough jabs to cover all those who need them.
“There’s also need for an audit process involving all stakeholders so that we can learn from our handling of the first and second waves and improve on that,” Nyaguse-Chiurunge added.
On his part, the secretary-general of the Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights (ZADHR), Norman Matara, welcomed the further relaxation of the stiff stay-at-home order, but also warned citizens against complacency.
“There is always a risk of a third wave … and hence people need to continue masking up and adhering to Covid-19 prevention measures.
“However, there was need to open up the economy and we think relaxing the lockdown was the right thing to do,” he said.
This comes as Zimbabwe has started its much-awaited national vaccination programme, which is initially prioritising frontline workers.
So far, authorities have received a donation of 400 000 doses from China, where they will also source a further 1,2 million vaccines.
The government is also expected to receive more jabs from the African Union (AU) under the World Health Organisation-led Covax programme.