health talk:with Dr Johannes Marisa
An alert citizen of Zimbabwe should have reason to worry when new cases of coronavirus are detected in such an astronomical fashion. The world is besieged left, right and centre and last Wednesday was the bleakiest day to date with more than 7 100 deaths globally within 24 hours. South Africa, which now sits on fifth position in the world, saw 573 deaths on the same day, a sign that coronavirus is far from over, especially in South Africa. Zimbabwe has been recording an average of 125 cases daily for the past five days and many have been wondering why all of sudden this has happened. Official deaths still stand at 28 as of Friday, while the majority of Covid-19 diagnoses are done post-mortem.
Zimbabwe is far much better than South Africa in terms of morbidity and mortality as shown by figures. Despite us having poorer health infrastructure, we have not been as affected as our southern neighbour, a sign that simple public health measures are playing significant roles. The use of face masks, observing social distancing, lockdowns, hand-washing and sanitisation are all of paramount importance in both containment and mitigation of Covid-19. We are fighting a relentless war as a nation and during a war, extraordinary measures should be taken in order to survive. However, we have some people who do not take the war seriously, hence they flout regulations put in place, but putting the whole nation at Covid-19 risk. The following have been noted as imperfections on public health measures in place:
Contamination of masks: Many people still believe that masks should be put on to evade police arrest, which is very unfortunate. A mask can be a serious source of the virus by simply touching the surfaces with resultant contamination. When the contaminated surface is put to the nose, you can take in a lot of viruses and infection starts. It is therefore essential to know the doffing and donning of personal protective equipment. People should be taught the correct disposal of masks. I have noted so many extremely dirty masks which could have been in place for the entire week.
Wrong use of gloves: We have said it before that using gloves in public places while not changing them with every customer is a serious health hazard. It seems there are some organisations that do not want to take medical advice that benefits the nation. Tollgate attendants, supermarket till operators and fuel attendants are openly doing that in front of authorities. Goromonzi toll plaza has been doing this malpractice where the same gloves are used when they hand swipe machines to motorists. Motorists risk contracting the virus from one source. This is a practice that should immediately stop. Gloves are used when you are sure that you will change them when serving the next person.
Using sub-standard sanitisers: So many people are selling sanitisers in homes and shops, but most of them have improper components. Coronavirus needs sanitisers that are alcohol-based with at least 70% alcohol. Elimination of the virus is difficult if the alcohol component is not as significant as expected.
Look at the composition of the sanitiser that you intend to buy and decide before you go ahead to purchase.
Failure to observe isolation: So many who have been diagnosed with Covid-19 are said to be in isolation. Unfortunately, we hear that Mr X was in town in order to fix his car. Many of them do not heed advice to remain isolated, hence the chances of transmitting are very high. It needs all of us to have a spirit of consideration if we are to win.
Security laxity in quarantine centres: Many people have run away from quarantine centres putting the whole nation at risk. As of two weeks ago, 209 people had escaped from quarantine centres. Some are believed to buy their way out in order to evade the 21-day mandatory quarantine. Recently, two brothers, Wiseman and Morgan Ngwenya, from Madaulo village in ward 1 of Beitbridge, escaped from a quarantine centre and went on to infect seven minors in the village.
Illegal crossing: Because of fear of being quarantined, so many people are now resorting to illegal crossing back into Zimbabwe, especially those coming from South Africa. This is likely going to affect towns along the border with South Africa. Such towns include Chiredzi, Beitbridge, Gwanda and Masvingo. We have to intensify testing in all suspected cases in these towns before disaster strikes. Testing has not been as robust as expected and we expect the director for laboratories to move with speed to address this sad development. Action, action and action!
Lack of personal protective equipment: More than 200 health workers have already tested positive for Covid-19 within a short time. Mpilo, UBH and Zvishavane hospitals top the list. Please protect the front-liners with the needed basic attire. Government should act with speed before a full-blown catastrophe ensues.
Covid-19 is real. It can start with you or me. Stay safe!
l Dr Johannes Marisa is a medical doctor, a public health practitioner who can be accessed on: firstname.lastname@example.org.