Only Behaviour Change Can Stop Surge in Covid-19 Infections

When the coronavirus pandemic began late 2019, most Zimbabweans never took it seriously.

Many were misled by social media platforms, where it was peddled that Covid-19 is only for whites and only comes in winter.

Even though we as a nation experienced some infections in early 2020, they were not so high. This gave a sense of false hope and many people started dropping their guards. Many experts wondered if there would be waves of cases, a pattern seen in other virus pandemics.

But with the relaxation of rules the overall pattern has been one of increasing cases of Covid-19, with a surge in the summer more than it was in winter. A cruel warning bell was heard in every household.

Covid-19 has shown that it does not respect people. It has come back with such venom which was never expected. Now Zimbabwe has witnessed and it is still witnessing a high number of infections followed by a great number of those succumbing to the disease. The whole world is experiencing a “second wave” of cases.

Zimbabwe has been left with more questions about this unseen, but cruel pandemic. We are all asking what is the reason of this surge?

Covid-19 is prevented by personal hygiene and the virus can be killed by washing with soap. However, it is our attitude towards the virus which determines whether we are able to fight it or not. This pandemic will kill more people and will change our behaviour. Our behaviour has been the major reason for the spreading of the virus.

Human behaviour is the major factor which spreads the virus. People’s attitude towards the pandemic gives them kick-backs which are ever so powerful and cruel than the kick back in a corruption deal.

Zimbabweans of all walks differed in their response to the pandemic. Some follow Covid-19 precautions, such as physical distancing, hand-washing and mask-wearing. Others are not as prescriptive in requiring these measures or in restricting certain high risk activities.

Some engaged into parties in clear defiance of rules to break Covid-19.

In some cities, towns and communities, public places are closed or practising limitations (such as how many people are allowed inside at one time); others are operating normally. Some Government and community leaders encourage or even mandate mask wearing and physical distancing in public areas. Others say it is a matter of personal choice.

This virus could have been stopped if people had adhered to the restrictions. Many people started politicising the virus until they could not escape the cruel jaws of the virus. People just need to take precautions as this will increase their chances of surviving the virus.

However, the relationship between those precautions and cases of Covid-19 is clear: In areas where fewer people are wearing masks and more are gathering indoors to eat, drink, observe religious practices, celebrate and socialise, even with family, cases are on the rise.

Many Christians think that Covid-19 is a test of faith. They forget that even in the time of Jesus, people were quarantined and sometimes God gives you ways of defeating the pandemic and in our stupidity we confuse foolishness with the act of faith.

Also, places where people live or work closely together (multigenerational households, long-term care facilities, prisons and some types of businesses) have also tended to see the spread of the coronavirus. Infections at “super spreader” gatherings of people where one infected person or more transmits the virus to many others continue to occur.

Some abuse their authority to gather at parties, funerals only to infect many people. Zimbabwe has lost two ministers, several security officers, nurses and doctors to Covid-19. It is only when one close to you dies that you realise that coronavirus is real.

The spike in the Covid-19 cases does not reflect the increase in testing. Testing does not give you Covid-19.

It simply tells you that you are positive or negative. So blaming the testing is like blaming a mirror for showing dirt in your face.

During the second wave, the actual number of people getting sick with the coronavirus is increasing.

This is so because in addition to positive Covid-19 results, the number of symptomatic people, hospitalisations and later, deaths, follows the same pattern.

As communities began to relish attending large gatherings, and the authorities reopen bars, restaurants and stores people were understandably eager to be able to go out and resume some of their regular activities. They mistook this reopening as a sign that Covid-19 is gone.

But the number of people infected with Covid-19 was still high in many areas, and transmission of the virus was easily rekindled once people increased their activities and contact with each other.

Medical experts urged reopening communities to continue diligent Covid-19 precautions, including physical distancing, hand-washing and mask-wearing, and monitoring for symptoms.

Unfortunately, the combination of reopening and lapses in these infection prevention efforts has caused the number of coronavirus infections to rise again.

This time it rose with brutal consequences which were never experienced before.

Again as a country we remained closed to information sharing. We allowed many false messages on the virus to congest the social media.

This gave many people false hope and the result was the brutal second wave.

When a person is exposed to the coronavirus, it can take up to two weeks before they become sick enough to go to the doctor, get tested and have their case counted in the data. It takes even more time for additional people to become ill after being exposed to that person, and so on.

Several cycles of infection must occur before a noticeable increase shows in the data that public health officials use to track the pandemic. Many people are resorting to home-grown medicine and these are never put in the statistics.

So when one relaxes precautions, the effects of that change will take a month or more to be seen. Of course, surges also depend on the behaviour of people when they start moving around more.

If everyone had continued to wear masks, wash their hands and practice social distancing, the second wave would not have come at all.

In the beginning of the pandemic, some people wondered: Will the coronavirus go away in the summer? Unfortunately, a substantial spike during the hot summer months in Zimbabwe made it clear that this was not the case.

Other respiratory illnesses, like colds and influenza (flu), are more common in the colder months. Now that fall is here, we are seeing a dramatic increase in Covid-19 across Zimbabwe.

Doctors, clinics and hospitals are now fighting more Covid-19 infections. People must continue to practice Covid-19 preventive measures, such as physical distancing, hand-washing and mask-wearing.

From Christmas to date, every Zimbabwean has seen the virus on their door step.

With the unavailability of a specific antiviral or a vaccine, non-pharmaceutical interventions could be the benchmark in curbing Covid-19 spread and non-compliance to the latter is the obvious cause of a second wave of Covid-19.

Hate them or not, the police must enforce the rules for the good the nation.

The Government must start serious censuring the public for the good of the nation. People, regardless of their social status, must be forced to observe standard operating procedures. We must regret the failure in not taking appropriate steps and decisions which led to the current situation.

It is time now we must stand up and correct our mistakes and save the nation. Lack of a stringent policy and lockdown breaking paved the way for SARS-CoV-2 spread through social, political, religious and regular business activities, transport and tourism. Schools, colleges and universities were re-opened for regular activities across the country.

Ultimately, a second wave of the pandemic erupted, according to the authorities. The ground was all set for such a situation in Zimbabwe.

The scary part is that circulation of the SARS-CoV-2 will not stop here and it is highly probable that Covid-19 can become a source of persistent infection if the lesson is not learnt.

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