Editorial Comment – COVID-19 – We Shouldn’t Lose the Ball Now

ZIMBABWE risks reversing the gains it has made in flattening the curve in Covid-19 infections if the rising numbers of people arrested for violating lockdown regulations are anything to go by.

Since the lockdown started, police have arrested 40 682 people for violating the rules, especially movement restrictions. Such large figures within a short period of time are worrying.

In the last two weeks, there has been more widespread disregard for the rules, with many people behaving like Covid-19 is history.

These figures point to laxity in the guard by the majority, at a time when the Government is stepping up measures to contain the spread of the pandemic. To this day, most of Government’s efforts have been trained on containment. Once detected, all cases and their contacts are quarantined to stop the further spread of the virus.

Sadly, those efforts may come to nothing if people start roaming around, putting everyone at risk. Once the virus spreads, with many people not aware of their status, containment will become impossible.

Tracing all the contacts with be an uphill task. With the onset of winter, there are fears of a possible jump in new infections, amid concerns that the coronavirus that causes Covid-19 thrives in low temperatures.

Zimbabwe has been doing very well in managing the pandemic, but that should not be the basis for complacency. The movement restrictions are not a punishment.

It is critical to maintain these and avoid affecting others because of the carelessness of a few.

World Health Organisation (WHO) Zimbabwe representative Dr Alex Gasasira made a good observation recently when he said while Zimbabwe had put a lot of measures to contain the disease, it had to guard against complacency.

That level of complacency is beginning to show among those who are flouting lockdown regulations, exposing themselves and those around them to Covid-19.

Violation of movement restrictions is not only a dangerous practice, but also a recipe for disaster which could result in multiple chains of transmissions.

During such unsanctioned and unnecessary movements, the danger of infection and spread of Covid-19 is very high. In such scenarios once one is infected, it would be difficult to trace the infections to their source.

It was because of the potential threat of Covid-19 transmissions from areas of high concentration to those of low concentration that forced nations, Zimbabwe included, to close borders.

After closing the borders, Zimbabwe has been able to keep a watchful eye on any new infections, through education, testing, isolating and quarantine those returning residents systemically.

That comprehensive package has helped in preventing the virus from getting out of control.

However, the current prevailing situation could get out of control if there is continued violation of gazetted laws. Some of these laws include movement restrictions, compulsory wearing of masks in public, prohibition of huge gathering of people and observing social distancing requirements.

It is also equally worrying that of those arrested by police, some of them were detained for liquor-related offences, a clear indication that there are some liquor centres opening their places to imbibers violating recently laws that prohibit the opening of bars and nightclubs.

We therefore call on the police to come hard on those found on the wrong side of the law, if our country is to win the fight against coronavirus.

Movements, large gatherings are being suspended in much of the world to reduce the speed of the coronavirus’ spread, and we are no exception.

While governments are following their own playbooks or improvising in the face on growing challenges as a result of the effects of Covid-19, we have our own regulations that are working, as attested by positive cases, currently at 132, but almost all of them from returning residents and most identified in quarantine centres, and so allowing isolation while these patients get better rather than having them infecting others on their way home, falling sick later and increasing risks.

They will soon be home, well and no longer infectious, because they are diagnosed early and can receive proper treatment in time.

The nation cannot afford to sit on its laurels in such times, but should increase vigilance against the spread of the virus to ensure that we can manage the pandemic with the resources that we have.

At one time, the nation was inundated with all sorts of projections, which painted a gloomy and catastrophic picture of the effects of coronavirus on our people.

This has not happened yet and it should not be allowed to happen as long as the nation remains vigilant and pulling in the same direction.

People should continue observing lockdown rules, bearing in mind that any slip up may have tragic consequences.

WHO has already cautioned nations that the virus has the propensity to strike with another wave of infection if regulations and requirements are not followed to the letter.

It is too early for the nation to celebrate and declare victory against Covid-19.

Beyond the role that the Government is doing to protect its people against the devastating effects of Covid-19, individuals should fight in their corners by being disciplined, abide by the rules and make a personal commitment to protect others.

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