Editorial Comment: We shouldn’t lose  guard against Covid-19

The battle against Covid-19 is being taken very seriously with Government continuing the lower level lockdown over the Easter holiday and making sure that fewer people will be driving around triggering off a third wave and that Zimbabweans wanting to come home for a break will not bring in a load of virus to infect their families.

At the same time the longer term solution, mass vaccination that will allow life to return to normal, is being stepped up now that large regular supplies of vaccine are arriving allowing a lot more vaccination points and far more people getting their jabs each day.

On Tuesday, President Mnangagwa laid it on the line. He does not want to preside over a third wave requiring massive lockdown measures, seeing hospitals fill up again and having to read the daily death tolls. 

He would far rather spend the health budget on vaccines rather than keeping people in intensive care and using the significant increase in nursing staff to man more vaccination points than tending to sick people in Covid-19 wards.

We learnt at Christmas that a lot of people are willing to take a chance when a major religious festival coincides with a spread of public holidays, and enough people took a chance that they triggered off the second wave that required a severe level of lockdown for two months and a lot of people falling sick.

We beat back that second wave, but it cost us, in both infections and in economic and social damage.

It makes sense to keep boarders at school for the break, forbid their parents to drive around visiting them, to maintain the 50-limit on church services, and to ensure that Zimbabweans exercising their right to come home for a break are not infected, and if they are not tested less than 48 hours before arrival then they will be quarantined. 

Immigration staff are now more aware of fake certificates and with the help of border health staff can catch and deal with cheats.

Many will feel disappointed with these measures, but health experts obviously feel they are necessary. At the same time those who were not planning on travel should see the risks of having an active social life over the holiday and as far as possible stay at home. 

Churches are all co-operating with the measures, fully, but we still believe our radio stations can each set aside an hour on Sunday and combine to broadcast a basic set of services that will cover the range of Christian traditions found in those churches that celebrate Easter. By the looks of it we need four, and perhaps five. 

When you group churches and look at the number of adherents we could easily give five stations one preacher each if they co-operated: A Catholic service, an Evangelical service from a nominee of the Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe, an Apostolic service and one, or perhaps two, from the more liturgical protestants in the Zimbabwe Christian Council. 

The ZCC might need two to cope with the more liturgical churches like the Anglicans and its daughter congregations like the Methodists, and one for the reformed churches. It would be a lot better than nothing.

Parents and boarders will obviously be disappointed at not meeting, but it is only two or three weeks since they parted, and modern phone networks make some contact easy. Most boarding schools will no doubt make a special effort over the holiday.

But at the same time there is good news. Our first one million plus commercial order of vaccine has arrived to substantially reinforce the generous gifts we have already received from China and India and Government has made it clear that there is budget to make the necessary large further orders, with more gifts still in the pipeline.

The Ministry of Health and Child Care is stepping up the national vaccination programme to make it easier for each group to get their jabs as they are called in.

As Deputy Health Minister Dr John Mangwiro noted this week, the Ministry already has a widespread vaccination infrastructure, the one used to vaccinate all children against that host of childhood illnesses that used to cause so much suffering.

This means that there are the necessary cold rooms and clinic fridges to store vaccines, the proper carrying cases to keep vaccines cold for the few hours needed to take them the final few kilometres to vaccination points and give the jabs, and a whole set of places where most families have already visited to get other vaccines, so they will know where to go.

And there is staff available to add more of those four-nurse teams that administer the Covid-19 vaccines. We hired a lot of extra nurses to staff our new wards and with the second wave beaten back and the potential third wave hopefully averted, there are fewer sick people so some of the extra staff can be switched to the vaccination teams.

As the Deputy Minister noted, we do not need long queues. For a start that defeats the social gathering lockdown rules and secondly is very inconvenient.

Far more people are willing to come forward for jabs. By now well over 80 000 will have had their first jab with zero ill effects, so vast numbers know someone already vaccinated and realise the drivel put out on social media is just that, drivel. 

And the inactive vaccines approved for Zimbabwe and the ones we have been given or bought are reckoned to be the ultimate in safe vaccines. They also cope with the varieties turning up far better than the special-target live vaccines.

One interesting bit of recent research has found that the global anti-vaxxer campaign is largely originated by around 12 nutcases in America, some of whom have never been through tertiary education and none of whom has ever done post-graduate studies in immunology. 

These nutters are most of the original sources of the garbage that goes viral. 

The one weird attempt to sell fake vaccination cards appears to have been broken up with three people on remand. 

So people will have to get genuine free cards from their free vaccinations. With the programme being expanded and speeded up those who feel they need a card for business purposes just have to show a little patience until their group is called in and they get the real thing, for free.

Zimbabwe has done very well in the Covid battle, and we are not about to repeat our one bit of overconfidence over Christmas. Our national vaccination campaign is using the right vaccines and is already a model in Africa as we just get on with it. 

Our President and Government are a listening Government, and they have been listening to the health experts and the World Health Organisation when it comes to dealing with Covid-19, rather than playing politics or reading junk on social media.

This means we are winning, in containing infections at low levels and getting on with a properly run vaccination programme that will eliminate the virus in Zimbabwe. 

All the rest of us really have to do is follow the lockdown rules properly, since they are based on expert advice, and go for our jabs when we are called in, since that programme is also run by people who know what they are talking about and know what to do.

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