AUTHORITIES are concerned about high levels of complacency being displayed by the generality of Zimbabweans since the relaxation of Covid-19 regulations and could reintroduce tighter restrictions and increase police checkpoints to forestall a third wave of infections.
On March 1, President Mnangagwa announced a comprehensive easing of lockdown measures leading to the reopening of businesses, removal of exemption letters, reduction of police deployments and easing of curfew regulations, among other interventions following a marked drop in Covid-19 deaths and infections.
However, since the relaxation of the measures, complacency has been creeping in and members of the public are throwing caution to the wind by failing to abide to social distancing and other preventive measures, raising fears that the country could experience a spike in infections, notwithstanding the national vaccination programme currently underway.
Officials last week told The Sunday Mail that the exemption letter requirement could be reinstated should the chaos obtaining in most urban areas persist.
However, the Government is in the meantime exhausting other avenues such as increasing the pace of vaccination and arresting offenders before reinstating stricter measures.
To achieve this, the Government has beefed up its vaccination teams while deploying personnel to educate people about the benefits of immunisation to communities.
Chief Co-ordinator of the national response to the Covid-19 pandemic in the Office of the President and Cabinet, Dr Agnes Mahomva, told The Sunday Mail that an avenue had been opened for the private sector to acquire doses through the Government to speed up the inoculation process.
Currently, over 36 000 people have been vaccinated and more are set to receive the jab in the second phase of the programme.
“As Government, we are always concerned when people get complacent because that is what led us to the second wave,” Dr Mahomva said.
“But as our main defence line, now that we have the vaccine, we are speeding up the programme to ensure that we immunise our target number as a way of minimising further infections.
“We are beefing up our teams from the national level to provincial so that more and more people get vaccinated and are educated about the safety of the vaccine.
“As a way of speeding up the process, we have also allowed the private sector to import the vaccine through the Government.”
She encouraged communities to abide by safety measures to ensure that the fight against Covid-19 is inclusive.
To this end, the Government has deployed teams to educate communities about the benefits of being vaccinated.
On Friday, Mpilo Central Hospital Acting chief executive officer, Professor Solwayo Ngwenya, issued an ominous warning to the nation after noting an increase in the positivity rate since the easing of the lockdown.
“Coronavirus: Back to the same pattern! Bulawayo starts with a high positivity rate of 19,5 percent. Unfortunately, the third wave with the variants will be unforgiving. This time things will erupt suddenly, and catastrophically. Stay at home if you can, it could save your life,” he wrote on his Twitter handle.
National police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi said if need be, the police would increase patrols and checkpoints to fish out irresponsible members of the public.
“We are not going back on arresting those who break the rules, especially those who are not wearing masks and not practising social distancing,” he said.
“We had restricted our patrols and checkpoints to curfew hours, but if things remain like this, yes there is a possibility that we could increase our checkpoints again.
“People need to be responsible, I think that should be a personal choice for the sake of one’s own health.”
Meanwhile, medical aid societies through their representative body, Association of Healthcare Funders of Zimbabwe (AFHoZ), are at an advanced stage in the process of acquiring vaccines after receiving the green light from the Government.
In a circular dated March 11, 2021, First Mutual Health managing director Stanford Sisya told members that the health insurer is actively participating in the vaccine procurement initiative led by the AFHoZ.
“Engagements with the Ministry of Health and Child Care as well as the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development, led by AHFoZ, have determined that the two ministries are amenable to the proposal for AHFoZ members to procure vaccines for their members” he said.
“AHFoZ is currently collating the information from its member companies to enable vaccine orders to be placed through the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development who are the procuring authority.
“In addition, the Medicines Control Authority of Zimbabwe has issued an emergency use authorisation for the following 4 vaccines: Sinopharm, Sinovac (China), Covaxin (India) and Sputnik-V (Russia), and the Government will guide the roll out plan for the vaccination programme.”
As at March 12, 2021, Zimbabwe had 36 423 confirmed cases, including 33 996 recoveries and 1 496 deaths. To date, a total of 36 283 frontline workers have been vaccinated. – Sunday Mail