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Covid-19: Time to stand up against the virus

health talk:with Dr Johannes Marisa

Coronavirus is striking the entire world with no signs of remission in the imminent future. Brazil remains in a sorry state with more than 1 000 people dying daily. India is sweating and has become the latest epicentre with daily mortality of greater than 550 as of Friday. Africa is now getting an unbearable number of cases with South Africa topping the list with more than 311 000 cases.

Our southern neighbour is in big trouble despite all the sophisticated health care offered in their hospitals. The government is already digging up close to one million graves in anticipation of many deaths in the near future. This is sad for sure and we pray that Zimbabwe be spared from this calamity as our resources are limited, including demoralised staff that has been fighting running battles with the government. Nurses have been on strike since three weeks ago with some of the remaining staff members being unfortunate in some hospitals like United Bulawayo Hospitals and Mpilo Central Hospital where they tested positive for Covid-19.

Zimbabwe has recorded just 24 deaths from Covid-19. Considering how the world has suffered from coronavirus, this is a very small number. The only worrisome thing is that most of the latest victims had their Covid-19 detected only after they had died. This is very unfortunate and I wonder where the problem lies.

There can be reasons why people are dying undetected, only to be diagnosed posthumously. The following reasons may be given for the unfortunate events:
lThere may be inadequate testing by the authorities. As of Thursday, the total tests done in Zimbabwe were 95 860. Many of these tests detected people from quarantine centres, but especially those returning from South Africa. South Africa has carried out more than 1,8 million tests and it now has more than 311 000 cases. With our country experiencing poor health delivery because of strikes, it is therefore inevitable that testing personnel may not be enough to cater for all those who need the facilities. It is, thus, imperative that testing be decentralised to even small clinics or surgeries.

lResults may not be availed as soon as expected such that patients die before they even know their status. This would be very unfortunate considering that the deceased could have transmitted the virus to many during their time of sickness. A robust health system should make sure results are out in one day and these would include both rapid tests and polymerase chain reaction (the confirmatory test). I have noted that some patients are taking more than five days before they receive their results from such health institutions like Wilkins Hospital. Can we become more serious as a nation if we are to remain on top of the situation?

lPatients may conceal symptoms of Covid-19 for fear of the unknown or for lack of confidence with the health system. A lot would surely just self-isolate at home until complications come to take them away from this earth. A lot of these so-called deaths usual occur at home and some of the patients would not have visited health centres to seek medical attention. We need to build confidence as a nation in our existent health facilities if we are to win the war against Covid-19.

In view of the above and for us to remain extra cautious as a nation, we need to avail the correct statistics about the Covid-19 morbidity and mortality.

Failure to present accurate information is not only catastrophic, but also unfortunate considering the dangers posed by the coronavirus. It is therefore important to do the following:

lAccelerated testing of all suspected cases especially those who present to medical centres, clinics, surgeries etc.

lAvail enough PPE to those who come into contact with many people like clinicians and security personnel. The issue of PPE has been topical and we have always talked about it even for private practitioners.

lAvail Covid-19 results as fast as possible so that patients cannot lose hope while waiting for results. The earlier the results, the better the management of the patients.

Just remember that Covid-19 is now with us. We are worse than March or April where we even observed stringent lockdowns. Why are we complacent today? Do not wait for government to enforce lockdown, think about your future as a family woman or man!

lDr Johannes Marisa is a public health practitioner who can be accessed on: doctormarisa@gmail.com.

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