By Elizabeth Sitotombe
THE World Health Organisation (WHO) first declared COVID-19 a public health emergency of international concern in January 2020, and just last week declared that COVID-19 pandemic was no longer a public health emergency of international concern.
It has been a tough three years and life, as we knew it, will never be the same again. We were ravaged by this virus; and we dare not forget.
We might not admit it but at the back of our minds we had that fear — and the fear still lingers, especially for those who lost their loved ones to the virus.
According to WHO, we lost about seven million people to the pandemic and it is possible that the number could be three times the official estimate, that’s over 20 million. Overall more than 765 million were confirmed COVID-19-infected globally.
Does this declaration by WHO mean the pandemic is well and truly over?
According to the director-general of WHO, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, what this latest announcement means is that, it is time for countries to transition from emergency mode to managing COVID-19 alongside other infectious diseases.
It is now an established ongoing health issue that needs to be managed.
Dr Ghebreyesus noted that there was a significant global decline in the weekly number of COVID-19-related deaths, hospitalisations and admissions to the intensive care units since the beginning of the pandemic and while the virus continues to evolve and mutate, the emerging variants do not appear to be associated with increased severity.
This change can be attributed to high population level immunity from infection, vaccination or both. According to WHO, over 13 billion doses have been administered since the vaccination programme began.
To sum it up, it does not mean COVID-19 is over.
Mask-wearing and other precautionary measures that were recommended during the peak of the pandemic should, therefore, not stop, according to Dr Chiriseri .
These measures do not only prevent the spread of COVID-19, but influenza and other respiratory diseases as well, especially for the elderly people and those who already have underlying conditions such as diabetes, cancer, asthma and many more.
In Zimbabwe, the current COVID-19 prevention measures will remain in place. People are expected to wear face masks, especially in poorly ventilated places. Hand-washing and sanitising will not only help prevent the virus but the spreading of other diseases, such as cholera which is slowly becoming a menace in the country.
Zimbabwe is going into the cold winter season and viruses spread easily. We, therefore, cannot let our guard down especially in schools where the viruses can spread easily. Many schools have, however, continued to take wearing of masks seriously.
According to the National COVID-19 Taskforce co-ordinator Dr Agnes Mahomva, the threat of the pandemic still remains.
“WHO announced that COVID-9 is no longer a public emergency but if you go over the same statement, they go on to specifically urge countries to remain vigilant as COVID-19 is not yet over,” said Dr Mahomva.
“Based on that, nations should remain vigilant and being vigilant in line with what we have seen and based on our experiences is adopting a new normal. New normal means we are not going baack where we were before COVID-19.”
As of May 6, 20 236 cases, 258 944 recoveries and 5 688 deaths were reported on the same day Zimbabwe recorded 17 new cases and zero deaths. Currently, there are 134 active cases while positivity was 2,3 percent.
As of four May 2023, in Zimbabwe, there were 13 hospitalised cases. Of the 13, six were mild to moderate cases, with one severe and six in intensive care units.
Certainly we are not completely out of the woods yet, and it’s up to us to put our health first and continue to take the precautionary measures seriously.
Let us continue to mask up, sanitise and maintain physical distancing, especially when in enclosed spaces.