Zimbabwe govt warns of omicron, says no room for complacency




Dr. Agnes Mahomva

THE fourth Covid-19 wave triggered by the Omnicron variant has so far proven to be deadlier compared to the Beta variant which fuelled the second wave that was prevalent during the festive season in December 2020.

A 14-day analysis of the period starting from December 20, 2021 to January 2 this year showed that 245 Covid-19 deaths were recorded compared to 73 recorded during the same period when the second wave hit.

This time around more cases are being recorded.

The daily average of recorded cases is at 1 580 to give a total of 22 121 recorded cases in two weeks so far compared to a 167 daily average that resulted in 2 346 cases over the same period during the previous festive season.

Despite views that Omicron results in less severe cases compared to Delta which gave rise to the third wave in June last year and other variants that have been circulating since the first Covid-19 was detected in March 2020, the number of Covid-19 deaths have been rising in Zimbabwe. 

To date, 5 032 deaths have been recorded in the country.

The highest number of deaths recorded in a single day was on June 16 last year with 102 fatalities.

Health experts say almost 90 percent of Covid-19 fatalities are of people who were not vaccinated against the pandemic.

In an interview, the country’s Covid-19 coordinator Dr Agnes Mahomva said members of the public should continue being vigilant as there are chances Covid-19 deaths may rise if complacency is allowed to get a foothold in communities. 

She said vaccination was still relevant and the best protection that residents can consider to save themselves from succumbing to the deadly virus. 

“The view that the fourth wave where the Omicron variant is dominating most of our cases is not bad is not a true reflection of what is on the ground because indeed, we are seeing deaths. Each time we record a death we are saddened and we just have to put out a message of warning,” said Dr Mahomva. 

“We cannot relax or be complacent and we want to continue pushing the message so that our communities remain vigilant. It is not over until it is over, there is always a danger of a sudden upsurge in deaths and new cases hence let’s not tire doing what we know is right especially getting vaccinated, we know that it saves lives.” 

According to research obtained by health authorities, not only do unvaccinated Covid-19 patients make up more than 90 percent of Covid-19 hospital admissions, but also 88,9 percent of people who died from the pandemic were not vaccinated.

Countries such as Britain who have achieved herd immunity had started opening up their economies while relaxing Covid-19 prevention protocols.

Vaccines are freely administered in public health institutions while some private health facilities charge nominal fees.

The country was targeting to vaccinate about 60 percent of the population to reach herd immunity by year end.

To this, Dr Mahomva said people should understand that although by the end of 2021 Zimbabwe had 33 percent of the targeted population fully vaccinated against Covid-19, the ambitious target was still on. 

She said ambitious targets are necessary to help the country push people to get vaccinated. 

“The whole aim of setting ambitious targets is to push us as individuals and a nation to really strive so that we have the highest coverage possible. If it was possible, we would get everyone who is eligible to be vaccinated for them to be protected as individuals and then you can talk of herd immunity,” added Dr Mahomva. 

She said it is critical that individuals appreciate the whole idea of setting ambitious targets with a view of making sure that the country achieves herd immunity. 

Community Working Group on Health director Mr Itai Rusike said communities should remain vigilant and not lower their guard as the Omicron variant is causing illness, hospitalisation and death just like any other Covid-19 variant.

“We want to warn the people of Zimbabwe not to focus on the infectious component of the Omicron variant and not to let it into their bodies based on the street arguments that it is mild as compared to other variants such as the Delta,” said Mr Rusike. 

He pleaded with communities to leave the medical diagnosis to the experts and focus on observing and adhering to the recommended guidelines and the preventive measures. 

Mr Rusike also called on learners to take time and get vaccinated so that they are able to continue with their studies without disruptions. 

“The number one enemy still remains the Covid-19 pandemic and people should not be diverted by the different variants hence we need to continue using the same public health prevention measures to fight the virus as a lot more Covid-19 different variants, and new waves still to come,” he added. 

Bulawayo Provincial Medical Director Dr Maphios Siamuchembu said any variant of Covid-19 is deadly and there is no predicting on how many people will be killed. 

“People need to be discouraged from congregating and getting together as it is fuelling our transmission rates. We need to take this Omicron seriously as Bulawayo and Zimbabwe so that we do not record more deaths, we have already lost many people during the past festive season,” added Dr Siamuchembu. – Herald