Delta variant accounts for 79pc cases in Zim

05 Aug, 2021 - 00:08 0 Views
Delta variant accounts for 79pc cases in Zim

The Herald

Bulawayo Bureau

The virulent Delta variant of Covid-19, first identified in India but now active across the world, accounts for 79 percent of Zimbabwean infections with the beta variant, first detected in South Africa ratching up 16 percent and the alpha strain, first seen in Britain, for 2,5 percent.

With these extra variants, all of which are controlled by the vaccines now in use in Zimbabwe, Zimbabweans have to ensure they always follow laid down Covid-19 prevention measures and should try and be vaccinated as soon as possible.

The new strains are not deadlier than the original, but are easier to transmit, with the delta variant in particular being easy to catch or pass on. This is why it is now dominating in global transmission rates. It is considered 50 percent more contagious than the alpha variant.

For Zimbabweans, illegal cross-border activities, failing to mask-up properly, crowding and visiting drinking spots are among activities that see the new variants coming into the country and getting passed around.

In the seven days to Tuesday 396 Zimbabweans died of Covid-19 with 10 724 new cases. While infection rates have been falling very slowly since 15 July, the death rates only started their slow decline two weeks later on 30 July, the delay being that those who die from Covid-19 were usually infected one to three weeks earlier. The Delta variant was first detected in Zimbabwe in June and was the primary driver of the third wave which started rising infection rates from the end of the first week of last month, prompting Government to immediately start tightening the lockdown to help Zimbabweans beat back the wave.

Zimbabwe has so far received more than 6,7 million doses of the Chinese Sinopharm and Sinovac vaccines plus modest amounts of the Indian Covaxin and Russia’s Sputnik V vaccines and by Tuesday afternoon had used 2 540 555 doses on 1 707 671 first doses and 832 884 second doses. 

The country is targeting to vaccinate at least 10 million people to achieve herd immunity.

Statistics for the past two weeks also show that Zimbabwe is one of the five African countries that contributed to 80 percent of total recorded cases.

The other countries include South Africa, Tunisia, Namibia and Zambia.

Speaking during a fact checking training workshop hosted by the Gender Media Connect Zimbabwe, the World health Organisation Zimbabwe team leader Dr Lincoln Charimari said all viruses, including Covid-19, change over time through processes called mutations and that some of these mutations may affect the virus’s properties which include increase in transmissibility.

“These changes may also increase in virulence or change in clinical disease presentation, decrease in effectiveness of public health and social measures or available diagnostics, vaccines, therapeutics,” said Dr Charimari.

“The alpha (first detected in the UK) variant has been reported in 182 countries, territories or areas. The beta variant first detected in South Africa has been reported in 131 countries. The gamma variant (first detected in Brazil) reported in 81 countries (three very recently); and the delta variant (first detected in India) reported in 132 countries (eight very recently). In Zimbabwe delta is responsible for 79 percent of cases; beta for 16 percent and alpha for 2,5 percent. These proportions are dynamic and likely to change over time,” he said.

Dr Charimari said it was important for people to continue to get vaccinated to reduce their risk of hospitalisation and developing severe symptoms.

 “Not less than six vaccines have since received the WHO emergency use listing approval including the Sinopharm and Sinovac currently being rolled out in Zimbabwe. The Medicines Control Authority of Zimbabwe recently approved the use of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine in Zimbabwe.”

Contacted for comment, health expert Professor Solwayo Ngwenya said if members of the public continue being complacent, they may attract worse variants which is likely to lead to more deaths.

He said if nothing is done to change risky behaviours displayed by the public the more vicious variants like the delta plus could hit the country.

 “Many people continue to disregard all the Covid-19 measures set by health experts and our Government although our deaths have continued to rise in an alarming manner. People are still attending funeral wakes, parties and even visiting each other,” he said.

Prof Ngwenya called on the Government to continue monitoring these variants and how people are behaving so that the country is spared mass deaths and hospitalisations.

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