Schools to remain closed…as COVID-19 cases rise

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By Elizabeth Sitotombe

SCHOOLS are to remain closed as the Government battles to contain the rise in COVID-19 cases in the country. 

Cabinet deferred the opening of the second term by two weeks following a surge in COVID-19 infections in the past weeks. 

Health practitioners and the public welcomed the decision.  

Schools were set to be opened on June 28. 

“In view of the regional and local upsurge of cases, the nation is informed that Cabinet approved that the re-opening of schools and other learning institutions be delayed by 14 days, Government will be monitoring the situation and a review will be made after two weeks,” said the Information Minister Monica Mutsvangwa in a Post Cabinet briefing. 

There has been an increase in infections and deaths as all 10 provinces in the country report cases pointing to widespread community transmission.

Positivity rate now stands at 10 percent and above; according to health practitioners, a positivity rate of more than five percent is worrisome.

As of June 22 2021, Zimbabwe had recorded 42 714 cases and 1 691 deaths; 519 new cases were recorded and six deaths. 

Mashonaland West recorded a staggering 228 cases.

The Government of Zimbabwe approved more localised lockdowns in areas that were labelled as COVID-19 hotspots. 

A localised lockdown is where lockdown measures are implemented in a particular area in-order to help stop the spread of a virus.

Areas which are under localised lockdowns include Karoi, Makonde, Chiredzi, Mt Darwin, Chidamoyo, Chirundu, Magunje, Chimhoyi, Mhangura, Emakhandleni and Northern Suburbs in Bulawayo Metropolitan Province.

The measures stipulated are:

λ Curfew from 1800hrs to 0600hrs

λ Entry or exit into these districts is prohibited except for essential services.

λ Shop and Business operating hours from 0800hrs to 1500hrs

λ Public transport to carry half their carrying capacity, to enable physical distancing

λ Proper wearing of masks at all times

λ Sanitising and temperature checks on boarding and entering business premises.

Lockdown in Kwekwe was further extended by another two weeks. Kwekwe is one of the COVID-19 hotspots and was the first town to be put under localised lockdown in May after the Indian variant was detected last month.

Data from WHO shows cases are surging by 20 percent week-on-week in Africa and the continent has now surpassed the five million case mark since the emergence of COVID-19 while 76 percent of all new cases being reported were from South Africa, Tunisia, Zambia, Uganda and Namibia.

New cases recorded weekly in Africa have now exceeded half of the Second Wave peak of more than 224 000 weekly cases in January 2021. Democratic Republic of the Congo and Uganda have reported their highest number of new weekly cases since the pandemic began. 

In Southern Africa, Namibia and South Africa have reported high numbers

Many factors have fueled the surge of COVID-19 cases in Africa: a low compliance with COVID-19 public measures, the cold seasonal weather and the emergence of more contagious variants.

The virus that causes COVID-19 keeps mutating and creating new variants. 

Some of the new variants, like the Indian variant which was recently named the Delta variant by WHO, are more contagious and spread quickly.

According to the WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti: “Africa is in the midst of a full blown Third Wave, the sobering trajectory of surging cases should rouse everyone into urgent action. We’ve seen in India and elsewhere just how quickly COVID-19 can rebound and overwhelm health systems.” 

Vaccines have been faring quite well against the latest variants.

Vaccination against COVID-19 is going well in Zimbabwe and has been intensified in hotspot areas. 

More than 706 158 people have received their first dose and 440 200 their second dose.

Getting vaccinated is very important at this stage. 

The COVID-19 vaccine gives people a fighting chance against the virus.

One also has to be fully vaccinated; receiving one jab alone means if you get COVID-19 infection, you will be inadequately protected. There is only partial protection. 

Measures, like wearing masks, washing hands and maintaining physical distancing, have proved that they can reduce transmission of the virus and remain the most important measure in the fight against the virus.

Our behaviour will determine how we fare during the Third Wave.

 Let us protect ourselves and each other.

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