THE second wave of Covid-19 hit the country between December last year and February this year.
The high infection rates and fatalities were attributed to unrestricted movement of people from highly burdened countries into ours and the partying some of them did during that festive season. It was a frightening time for all of us, a time when some of the biggest names in the country — Foreign Affairs and International Trade Minister Sibusiso Moyo, Joel Biggie Matiza (Transport and Infrastructural Development) and Ellen Gwaradzimba (Manicaland) — lost their lives to the viral infection within eight days.
The third wave, from June to July, was fuelled by the more virulent and transmissible delta variant and winter.
Now as we approach this year’s festive period, yet another variant, about which little is known, was reported in Botswana and South Africa last week. The new strain, omicron, has been driving new cases in the latter. Experts warn that it is more transmissible than delta but no one knows yet whether it will cause more serious disease or fatalities.
The dreadful experience of the last holiday season and the emergence of the latest strain, have moved the Government, like others across the globe, to adopt a defensive posture, just in case a fourth wave settles.
On Tuesday, President Mnangagwa toughened the lockdown, put stricter conditions on travellers from abroad and implored citizens to get vaccinated. He extended the curfew from 9PM to 6AM, ordered businesses to operate from 7AM to 7PM and declared that the Government would enforce greater compliance.
Only fully vaccinated persons must be allowed into restaurants and bars, he said, drinking at bottle stores is banned, wearing of face masks mandatory while calling for citizens to sanitise and or wash their hands regularly and practise social distancing. All Covid-19 related funerals will be strictly supervised by the Government through environmental health officers and technicians.
“What raises our concern, and adds to our anxieties, is the outbreak of a new strain, omicron, detected and reported in neighbouring countries only a few days ago,” the President said.
“We face a new, added risk, which compounds the burden we already face and shoulder from known variants we have been grappling with since the outbreak of the pandemic. It is in view of this new, ominous development that Government has decided on new, enhanced measures to strengthen our national response, and to protect our nation from the impact of a likely fourth wave, which the new variant, omicron, will most certainly aggravate.”
All returning residents and visitors have to undergo PCR testing, and will be quarantined, at their own cost, for days recommended by WHO, even if they present negative PCR test results from elsewhere.
He criticised complacency that has crept into society, saying it could worsen during the forthcoming festive period.
“The above good progress notwithstanding, lately we have witnessed creeping complacency in most communities.
Some individuals and groups are simply lowering their guard when it comes to measures we have recommended for Covid-19 prevention. In all likelihood, this worrisome complacency is likely to get worse as the festive season approaches. Our nation thus faces the grim risk of a fourth wave which must be avoided at all cost.”
The Government’s move to tighten regulations against Covid-19 is smart and well timed, well in advance of the December-January period traditionally characterised by high traffic, big gatherings and celebrations. The immediate past festive period, as we have indicated earlier, taught us a hard lesson that, if we don’t change our ways, Covid-19 can sicken and most unfortunately take the lives of people. To forestall those possibilities, the Government had to act now.
We call on citizens to observe the measures that the President announced on Tuesday. They, as the President said, must practise social distancing, curtail unnecessary travelling, wear face masks properly when they are in public spaces, wash their hands with soap and under running water and sanitise.
In addition to the foregoing, we implore our people to get vaccinated against the infection. A fully vaccinated person has a stronger immune system to be able to fight off a serious coronavirus infection. Treasury has already bought 20 million vaccine doses enough for 10 million people, but sadly, fewer people have been getting the jab in recent months.