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Vigilance needed ahead of festive season

The reopening of schools and the country’s borders in the last two months has seen the resurgence of Covid-19 cases, which has not been met with a robust response from the authorities.

EDITORIAL COMMENT

According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (Ocha), Zimbabwe has had Covid-19 outbreaks in nine high schools and universities contributing to the increased number of cases in Matabeleland North, Matabeleland South, Midlands, Mashonaland West and Mashonaland East.

Ocha said children of school-going age (five to 19 years) accounted for 7,6% of the all confirmed cases, which stood at 11 162 as of Friday with 306 deaths.

There was also a spike in the number of Zimbabweans returning from countries such as South Africa and Botswana that tested positive for the coronavirus.

Since the outbreak of the highly infectious disease in March, 32 047 Zimbabweans had returned home and a number of them tested positive for the disease.

The number of returnees is expected to continue to increase with the reopening of borders at the beginning of this month and the festive season that is upon us.

This is happening at a time when questions still linger about Zimbabwe’s readiness to deal with a large-scale outbreak of Covid-19 given the poor state of the country’s health facilities.

Provinces such as Bulawayo and Matabeleland South, which have recorded some of the highest infection rates, up to now do not have health facilities that can handle patients with Covid-19 complications.

Such a scenario makes prevention the only viable way to avoid a catastrophe that will accompany an outbreak that is getting out of control.

Ocha says to address the Covid-19 resurgence, “there is a need for risk communication and community engagement to increase awareness particularly with the opening of borders and approaching festive season; increased vigilance about potential amplification and super-spreading opportunities associated with crowding, increased travel, closed communities such as schools, barracks, prisons; enhanced capacity for surveillance, laboratory testing; maintain capacity for case management, infection prevention and control; and advocate for strict lockdown and enforcement measures as a last resort”.

We could not agree more with the Ocha position. Zimbabweans in general seem to be letting down their guard when it comes to Covid-19 prevention.

Some have stopped wearing masks in public and there is increased violation of regulations on gatherings. The authorities need to step up the policing of the lockdown regulations and review them whenever necessary.

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