Zimbabwe risks a more deadly second wave of the Covid-19 outbreak after the festive season with an expected increase in the number of people visiting from neighbouring countries, health experts have warned.
BY VANESSA GONYE
South Africa and Botswana will reopen their land borders for ordinary travellers this week for the first time since March when the coronavirus outbreak hit southern Africa.
Zimbabwe is already witnessing a huge jump in the number of daily Covid-19 cases and deaths with boarding schools emerging as the new hotspots.
Mthabisi Bhebhe, a medical doctor, warned that the government’s decision to reopen borders and schools had pushed the country towards a “second wave” of the Covid-19 outbreak.
“You see schools were hurriedly re-opened under the recommendation of the government,” Bhebhe said.
“Borders will reopen on December 1, but the pandemic continues to gather pace.”
He said the response to the pandemic was lax as people had returned to the “normal” way of living, discarding masks and disregarding social distancing along the way.
“The number of people in public gatherings, restaurants and clubs is uncontrolled, hence these places are breeding grounds and super-spreader zones for Covid-19,” Bhebhe said.
“The government must understand that Covid-19 was discovered around this time last year, so the pandemic is just beginning and not ending.
“Lockdown measures must be tightened and tightened thoroughly as we enter the festive season and look forward to 2021.”
John Tallach High School in Matabeleland North recorded 189 Covid-19 cases as teachers and students tested positive while Matopo High School in Matabeleland South had 19 cases.
Another school in the Midlands had a total of 20 learners — 14 girls and six boys — testing positive for Covid-19 and the number is likely to rise as more tests are being done.
Enock Dongo, the Zimbabwe Nurses Association president, said frontline health workers were worried by government’s lack of urgency in containing Covid-19 .
“From a medical point of view, we are much worried by the notable increase in cases of the deadly virus,” Dongo said.
“Though this is attributed to both government and citizens, where a relaxed atmosphere is evident, we need to re-tighten measures and follow laid-down measures.
“We do not have resources to deal with infections and we might have an outbreak by early next year.”
Community Working Group on Health executive director Itai Rusike urged the government to consider tightening lockdown restrictions in hotspot areas such as Harare and Bulawayo should the spike in new Covid-19 cases continue.
“The opening of the national borders on December 1 should be done when all the necessary safety measures have been put in place including verification of the Covid-19 certificates in order to detect and flush out any fake Covid-19 certificates,” Rusike said.
The parliamentary portfolio committee on health last week suggested that schools be closed to control the spread of the disease as most institutions have no capacity to provide personal protective equipment for learners and teachers.
As of Friday, Zimbabwe had 9 623 Covid-19 cases with 274 deaths.