The modest surge in Covid-19 infections over the past fortnight, and the infection rate is still less than 11 percent of what we saw at the height of the third wave, now appears to have levelled off as the steps taken by the Ministry of Health and Child Care to tighten controls at boarding schools come into effect.
The seven-day running average of daily infection, considered the best guide to mapping changes in infection rates since it takes into account delays in test results and other blips, reached 102 on Sunday September 12 and everyone hoped it would continue to fall to those levels between 30 and 50 that we saw between infection waves.
Instead it started rising. Around half the new infections were coming from a small number of schools, almost all boarding secondary schools. By Thursday last week 1 281 schoolchildren and 131 teachers had been confirmed with a Covid-19 infection. Fortunately, none had been sick enough to need to go to hospital, let alone dying, and many exhibited no symptoms or only very minor symptoms.
This trend for young people not to show symptoms is obviously why the infections broke out in the first place.
As schools started opening from the end of last month, after the third wave had mostly receded, there would have been the odd pupil or teacher infected at home coming to school; but with the low level of symptoms they would not have been picked up by the temperature checks and the like at the school gate.
The rise in average daily new infections rose quite quickly but was levelling out last week. It peaked at 255 on Monday last week and then fell and rose and fell again by a few percent during the week, ending up on Saturday at 252.
The Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education, with backing and expertise from the Ministry of Health and Child Care, introduced tighter controls on schools, and make it clear that the threat was real and all schools needed to follow the protocols with no one assuming that it would be all right on the night. The levelling out of infection rates suggests that the measures are working and that all schools now understand why they need to be serious.
The other heart-stopping moment last week was a sudden jump in daily deaths. With the death rate cruising along at an average of around four a day there were suddenly seven deaths on Tuesday, 14 on Wednesday and eight on Thursday, which combined with the low rates seen in the previous few days drove the daily average up to six.
The number of deaths then fell to two on Friday and one on Saturday.
This sudden blip in deaths had nothing to do with the rise in infections, since those were largely in a few schools with no one getting seriously ill, and once the school jumps are factored in there does not appear to have been a jump in daily infections a couple of weeks earlier; death rates tend to follow about two weeks behind infection rates as it takes some time for a person to become really ill.
One problem Zimbabwe faces is the number of unvaccinated people still around. Although Zimbabwe has one of the best vaccination rates in Africa, with more than 3 million people now having had at least one jab and an impressive 2,19 million fully vaccinated, about 14,6 percent of the population, this still leaves at lot of people unprotected by vaccination.
While vaccination is not foolproof, evidence from around the world shows it severely limits infections and even when people are infected they are far less likely to fall very ill.
Best estimates now, and these only deal with infected people, not those who because of vaccination never get infected in the first place, are that an infected but vaccinated person is at worst only one tenth as likely to die as an unvaccinated but infected person.
The double protection from vaccination, both the strong protection against infection in the first place and then the strengthening of the body’s immune system to throw off the infection without severe illness, are highlighted by the latest British statistics that show 27 percent of deaths among the unvaccinated are due to complications from Covid-19 while only 0,3 percent of deaths among the vaccinated come from this infection. People still die of cancer, road accidents and the like but Covid-19 is not a significant contributor to deaths among the vaccinated.