New Covid-19 variant: Zim on high alert

27 Nov, 2021 - 00:11 0 Views
New Covid-19 variant: Zim on high alert Acting President Constantino Chiwenga

The Herald

Mukudzei Chingwere Herald Reporter

Zimbabwe’s Covid-19 response needs to be escalated with the new Covid-19 variant B.1.1.529 seen in the region, although not yet in Zimbabwe, with people getting vaccinated, following more strictly the standard public health measures and with tighter monitoring of border posts, the Government has said.

In a statement yesterday, Vice President and Minister of Health and Child Welfare Dr Constantino Chiwenga reiterated the importance of the mitigation measures with the most important being taking up free vaccinations made available by the Government and paid by Treasury but including masking, social distancing, sanitising and temperature checking at gatherings.

The Vice President said there was little information on the new variant, confirmed in South Africa on Wednesday after an upsurge in cases, except that it had numerous points of mutation compared to the Delta variant, the main one circulating in Zimbabwe.

As investigations continue, the public would be kept informed.

This latest mutant, so far recorded in Botswana and parts of South Africa, has sparked curbs on travel with the United Kingdom, the US, France and some other countries temporarily suspending direct flights from Southern African countries, including Zimbabwe.

Earlier yesterday while addressing the Health Professions Authority congress, Dr Chiwenga urged the nation to remain calm but stressed that Zimbabwe had to escalate its response mechanism to contain the new lineage.

“With regards to the recent new Covid-19 variants being reported in the media, the country should not panic because we are very prepared,” said Vice President Chiwenga.

“The ramping up of our vaccination programme in the past month has seen a marked increase in the vaccination uptake.

“We remain focused on this very critical initiative that is designed to protect the nation from the negative impact of any new variants.

“Meanwhile, our scientists are already doing genomic sequencing for identification of any new variants hence helping support timely strengthening of our response,” said VP Chiwenga.

Late yesterday in his statement, the Vice President said: “Zimbabwe is yet to detect this new variant among the few cases being reported in the country. New samples will be collected for genomic sequencing surveillance from among the cases being detected at the points of entry and from any clusters.

“Strict monitoring of movements at points of entry and border posts is being intensified to minimise the introduction of this new variant into the country.”

VP Chiwenga said the Health Ministry reiterated the importance of vaccination and intensifying Covid-19 mitigation measures of social and physical distancing, use of face masks at all times, sanitisation of hands and surfaces and temperature checks at all gatherings.

“The ministry would also want to assure the nation that there is no need to panic as the above control measures are in place and will mitigate against any variant.”

Zimbabwe already has a critical eye at the ports of entry to detect and deter importing Covid-19 positive patients unwittingly.

South Africa said the decision to put that country on travel restrictions was hasty, and some jurisdictions say the travel limitations on some Southern African countries were bereft of any scientific backing.

Reports from Botswana say it’s health ministry was tracing contacts of four foreign nationals who tested positive with the new strain, stating that so far all the contacts traced had shown no symptoms.

VP Chiwenga told the health professionals to be on call for any eventuality to avoid a repeat of previous spikes at the end of last year and in the middle of this year.

He said the health professions authority has been pivotal in providing a healthcare delivery system which plays a major role in the growth of the economy and country.

“All over the world there is a growing realisation that a mixed health system of private and public health players is better to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic.

“I challenge you to come up with strategies, programmes, standards of care and quality equipment that are common to both private and public healthcare providers,” he told the delegates at the Health Professions Authority’s annual congress.

Health experts unanimously urge those yet to be vaccinated to get their shots to boost their immunity. Vaccinated people are significantly less likely to become infected, and if infected are far more likely to escape with mild symptoms. Around the world most of those who get very sick and those who die come fromthe unvaccinated.

World Health Organisation (WHO) country representative Dr Alex Gasasira addressed the meeting and commended Zimbabwe for having already incorporated most of the priority actions that WHO is recommending to countries, and he quoted the relevant portions of the Public Health Act 2018 the National Development Strategy 1, 2021-2025 and the National Health Strategy 2021-2025.

Fully implementing these, as VP Chiwenga had noted, would strengthen the public health sector.

Dr Gasasira said Governments across the world, including in Zimbabwe, had taken bold action to address the COVID-19 pandemic, saving lives and livelihoods.

“I would like to applaud all those, including many of you here today, that contributed to the articulation of these important national documents that already incorporate most of the policy priorities being forward to address the challenges the world is grappling with.

“I would like to believe that many of us are already supporting the implementation of the contents of these key strategic documents,” said Dr Gasasira

Share This:

Sponsored Links