BY VANESSA GONYE
Health experts have warned that Zimbabwe is in the throes of a deadlier third wave of the Covid-19 outbreak with more rural areas emerging as hotspots. Mashonaland West province, which is largely a rural province, has been recording the highest daily infections for most of this month and a fortnight ago the government was forced to introduce more stringent lockdown measures in Kariba, Hurungwe and Makonde districts.
Masvingo is another largely rural province that is reeling from rising infections. Johannes Marisa, president of the Medical and Dental Private Practitioners Association, said the rising infections in rural areas were complicating the latest outbreak.
“People should realise the gravity of the third wave,” Marisa said.
“It is unique that it is attacking from the rural areas, which is quite sad considering the traditional ways of doing things in rural areas.
“A lot of people still need health education.
“More than 50% of people in the rural areas still think there is no Covid-19 and it is a menace. We are in trouble.”
He expressed concern over the state of infrastructure at rural health areas, saying it would make it difficult to contain the outbreak.
Senior Hospital Doctors Association president Shingai Nyaguse said the third wave differed from the second in many ways.
“Unfortunately many rural communities had relaxed on preventive measures,” Nyaguse said.
“A lot of the cases are in places where residents have a lot of contact with neighbouring countries, especially Zambia and South Africa.
“Unfortunately some of the facilities had not had their renovations completed, which hampers management of in-patients.”
She said it was unfortunate that there was an increase in the number of health workers infected with the coronavirus, a situation that would strain an already stretched workforce.
Enock Dongo, Zimbabwe Nurses Association president, said health workers were bearing the brunt of the outbreak.
“It’s really a sorry state, we have started having more and more nurses contracting Covid-19,” Dongo said.
“Health workers, especially those in the most affected areas are victims of circumstances.
“There is a lot of exposure to Covid-19 for health workers and it seems nothing much is being done to avert the situation.”
Itai Rusike, Community Working Group on Health executive director, said the poor distribution of vaccines would leave people in rural areas vulnerable during the third wave.
“As long as we don’t address issues of vaccine equity people in the rural areas continue to be affected,” Rusike said.
“Rural communities are being left out.
“They are lacking information as well as access to vaccines.”
Agnes Mahomva, the chief coordinator for Covid-19 in the President’s Office, said no analysis had been done to distinguish between the second and third waves of the outbreak.
“The surge in numbers of Covid-19 deaths and cases is not really pointing to a shift in concentration of the virus, but our biggest concern is complacency,” Mahomva said.
“No one has done an analysis on the concentration of the virus.
“It really is about complacency whether one is in the rural areas or not.”