THE COVID-19 pandemic reached its peak between July and August in Zimbabwe, and since then the daily numbers of reported cases have considerably come down. As of 7 November 2020, the country has reported a cumulative 8498 cases, with 7995 recoveries and 251 deaths, with 27 new cases having been confirmed in the past 24 hours.
By Dr Grant Murewanhema
The epi-curve for Zimbabwe has been quite different from what has been experienced in South Africa, Europe and America. We are grateful because with certainty, Zimbabwe would have been unable to handle an exponential pandemic growth, given the numerous insurmountable health sector challenges.
Bulawayo continues to report new cases daily, and has also recorded a number of deaths over the past few days, almost on a daily basis. Midlands is also reporting a significant number of cases, and Masvingo this week also reported some cases, though it had been stable for quite a while. The picture is stable, but we are certainly not yet out of the woods. A high risk of an upsurge in transmission is realistic, and especially given that the majority of cases reported so far are local, with only sporadic cases among returnees from other countries.
We also expect our borders with South Africa to be fully open in a few days. Millions of Zimbabweans work in South Africa, formally and informally, illegally and legally, and once borders open, we expect an influx of returning residents.
The rainy season is also upon us, and we are not yet certain what impact wet weather will have on SARS-CoV-2 transmission, but evidence elsewhere suggests that community transmissions may increase with rains. The numbers of people attending church gatherings, funerals and other public gatherings have also started to increase significantly.
Its not clear to what extent the COVID-19 preventive restrictions still apply, but its definitely business as usual in most parts of Zimbabwe. Of course in a country where the majority of people are not formally employed and rely on informal trading for subsistence, it was just a matter of time before people resumed their activities.
Economic wise, its impossible to keep locking down people. These restrictive measures also have lots of unquantified collateral damage which will take years to recover from. Its been estimated that it will Spain at least 10 years to recover from the economic damage directly and indirectly attributable to the COVID-19 pandemic. In Zimbabwe, its even more difficult to make any economic projections because of an immeasurable baseline, but we know the pandemic may indirectly have brought unprecedented suffering upon the populace.
What is more important moving forward is to guard against complacency, and to remain vigilant at all times to protect ourselves and our communities from resurgence of the pandemic. Its no longer about being told what to do, but doing what is right as individuals, families and communities.
The level of ignoring the basics of infection prevention and control in our community is shocking! Its almost like people have forgotten about wearing of facemasks, physical distancing and handwashing. Talking to a few people, one gets the sense that many have a false impression that either the COVID-19 era in Zimbabwe is over, or we are protected by some special unknown factors. The truth is the virus is still very much around, and we are still exposing the vulnerable to a risk of contracting and dying from the disease. That Bulawayo is reporting deaths daily attests to this.
Society has to strike some kind of balance between resumption of normal socioeconomic activities and protecting the country from an inexorable resurgence of cases, which we may not be able to effectively handle as a public health sector. Therefore its up to individuals, communities, schools, faith-based organisations and other institutions to maximally observe basics of infection prevention and control as they go on about their activities.