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Zim coronavirus preparedness leaves a lot to be desired

Zimbabwe has lately struggled with diease outbreaks due to the state of the health care system, which is almost dysfunctional. Junior doctors and government have had a protracted dispute over remuneration and the biggest casualties are patients. One of the biggest referral hospitals in the country, Parirenyatwa, is opening private wards, where the monied can access health services after paying their bills in foreign currency and that leaves the ordinary person in a difficult position.

Cholera outbreaks have claimed too many lives because the health campaigns only come after an outbreak instead of having them all year round, especially in areas prone to cholera like Harare’s high-density areas. A serious shortage of potable water and the onset of the rainy season have in the past years brought cholera and lives have been lost needlessly. Cases of typhoid and medieval diseases like dysentery have been treated in Harare.

Coronavirus was last week declared a world pandemic and judging by new cases and the death toll, Zimbabwe must do something about educating the nation on the new flu-like strain that does not have a cure yet. Save for messages shared on social media on tips and scare-mongering by some people, the ordinary person lacks information about how they should carry themselves in the face of coronavirus.

Both the Information ministry and the Health ministry must not underestimate the power of information. Right now, people are confused because some people, especially the Chinese, are moving about with face masks. It is not clear whether the masks are meant to protect those that they come into contact with or to filter the air for them. We also do not know how effective the masks are as a preventive measure.

The government must also deal with myths and misconceptions around the virus. Rumour has it that black people are not susceptible to coronavirus, but how far true is that? Our people might venture into areas prone to the virus under the false impression that they are resistant to the infection and risk their lives and that of relatives.

Government must inspire confidence by demonstrating that they are aware of the gravity of the situation and they will be up to the task in the event of infections. It is time to visit schools and town halls to educate people and also to erect billboards with messages about the pandemic.

Together We Can, Mt Hampden

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