Covid-19, the worst is not yet over African Development Bank chief Akinwumi Adesina

Ruth Butaumocho

African Agenda

The decision by Government to remove the outdoor mask mandate for the triple vaccinated is a welcome move and an indication that there is a decline in Covid-19 cases.

Briefing journalists after the Cabinet meeting on Tuesday, Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister, Monica Mutsvangwa, said almost one million Zimbabweans triple-vaccinated against Covid-19 no longer needed to wear masks outdoors in public.

The same people are required to wear masks in indoor places and on public transport.

The decision, Minister Mutsvangwa said, was informed by the declining Covid-19 cases across Zimbabwe.

Zimbabwe’s decision comes barely two weeks after neighbouring Botswana announced that wearing face masks outdoor will no longer be required for its citizenry. 

While Zimbabweans are ululating over the decision by the Government, they should match the latest development with responsibility and commitment to meet other requirements needed to weed out Covid-19 completely. For now, it appears the country is temporarily out of the woods because of the declining cases of new infections. 

However, the momentum can only be sustained if legions of people make responsible and correct decisions to ensure that the virus remains at bay. It has become critical for unvaccinated people who have been sitting on the fence to assist the Government in further Covid-19 reduction by getting vaccinated. 

Despite Government concerted efforts to vaccinate people against the virus, many people are yet to warm up to the idea, desregading having lost family members, colleagues and friends to the pandemic.

Out of the 15 million Zimbabweans counted in the just-ended census exercise 6 392 065 people had received the first jab by Tuesday this week, while 4 753 686 others had received the second one.

Also by Tuesday, 959 909 people had the booster shot. 

The numbers of daily vaccinations have been moving up slowly of late, perhaps because of the slow rate of infections, but still a sad development that calls for urgent intervention. While reasons for refusal to vaccinate range from religious to social ones, with some expressing fear over undisclosed consequences that were being parroted by anti-vaccine activists, there is no justification for people to continue holding to confounding myths when the vaccinations have proved to be safe and harmless.

Even the anti-vaccine activists who were telling people that those vaccinated will die within two years, must be wilting in shame after their prediction was proven to be baseless.

If anything, the relaxation on masks should not be regarded as signalling the end of the Covid-19 pandemic, but it is a mere offshoot of the positive spin off-realised from the vaccination drive by the Government.

While many people are growing comfortable with Covid-19 in Zimbabwe and other regions in Africa and beyond, and no longer see the need to vaccinate, they need to be reminded that the worst is not yet over, if global reports are anything to go. 

In March, China, which is pursuing a Zero-Covid-19 strategy, recorded 1 000 new cases in two years, at a time when most countries where throwing gauntlets in the air, saying the pandemic was now over.

Faced with such an alarming and unexpected surge, China had no option but to put the country under lockdown, as it sought to curtail a further spread of new infections. 

The situation in China is now under control, but the brief re-emergence of the virus is telling that conditions could change anytime, a development that calls for people to be fully vaccinated.

Like what happened in China, there is high likelihood that a new, immunity-evading variant could upend our current relatively optimistic story, and the nation and possibly the Southern African region may find itself battling with another new wave of Covid-19.

It is for that reason that people still need to be cautious by maintaining the World Health Organisation recommended regulations, particularly those that have not been fully vaccinated. Unlike the paranoia that gripped the nation in 2020, people have become so comfortable, downright arrogant and are now too relaxed even to recall the disaster that ravaged the country and the world that year, where thousands succumbed to Covid-19.

People are now inadvertently easing their protective measures. 

Some had even stopped wearing facial masks long before the recent Cabinet pronouncement. 

They had been lulled into a false sense of security, at a time when other countries are gripped with fear following an upsurge in new cases. 

To circumvent the Covid-19 requirements while pushing back progress, some corrupt elements in the health sector were at one time even pulling in the opposite direction, taking bribes for handing out fake test certificates.

Although the practice has since gone down, the Government continues to battle with people who have not been vaccinated, but are now packing bars and other indoor venues, without even wearing a mask, let alone sanitising.

Covid-19 is not yet over, so people should remain highly alert and continue to observe the necessary WHO regulated precautions to protect themselves and others, who are also at risk of getting infected by Covid-19.

With a “significant resurgence” of Covid-19 having been reported in China and a few European countries, igniting fear around the world of a possible calamity, the nation cannot afford to be complacent, but should actually complement Government’s efforts, by complying with stipulated regulations and call for vaccination. Even after the nation has observed all WHO prescribed precautions, vaccination remains key in preventing and ending the Covid-19 pandemic.

WHO director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus

In February this year, WHO director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the acute phase of the pandemic could end by the middle of the year if about 70 percent of the world gets jabbed.

“Our expectation is that the acute phase of this pandemic will end this year, of course with one condition, the 70 percent vaccination (target is achieved) by mid this year around June, July,” Ghebreyesus, told reporters in South Africa in February.

“If that is to be done, the acute phase can really end, and that is what we are expecting. It is in our hands.

It is not a matter of chance. It is a matter of choice,” he pleaded, during a visit to Afrigen Biologics and Vaccines, which has produced the first mRNA Covid-19 vaccine made in Africa using Moderna’s sequence.”

That feat may be long in coming, with most countries still battling to ensure that its citizenry receive at least one dose, a month after missing Ghebreyesus target of attaining 70 percent global vaccination rate. 

According to a vaccination database called Our World in Data, slightly over 60 percent of the world population has received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine.

So, in the absence of attaining global herd immunity, Covid-19 will certainly remain with global citizenry until people take responsibility to protect each other through wearing masks, sanitising, maintaining social distance and vaccinating against the virus. 

Like what the African Development Bank chief Akinwumi Adesina once said: 

“The global recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic will depend on the world coming together in a collective endeavour backed by science, finance and political resolve.”

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