Thandeka Moyo-Ndlovu, Health Reporter
Government will first ascertain that Covid-19 vaccines are safe before administering them on volunteers.
Further, in the unlikely scenario that cases spiral out of control, all hospitals in the country may be turned into Covid-19 centres.
If citizens fail to adhere to prevention measures and cases continue increasing, the 30-day lockdown may be increased and restrictions further tightened.
A total of 636 people have succumbed to the killer virus countrywide after 47 — the highest number recorded in a day since the pandemic broke out in March last year — died on Thursday.
Government is yet to roll out the vaccine which has attracted a lot of controversy in other countries over its efficacy and claims that the available vaccine can lead to a number of side effects.
Statistics from the Ministry of Health and Child Care show that as of Wednesday, the recovery rate had plummeted to 56,3 percent in two weeks since the new year began.
In a Press statement yesterday, Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga, who is also the Minister of Health and Child Care, said he was aware that many Zimbabweans were curious about the Covid-19 vaccine which is being rolled out in other countries.
“I am also aware that some of our citizens are anxious to get vaccinated. The Government is following the development and dissemination of Covid-19 vaccines by other States, with keen interest. Despite the observations made that other African, European and Asian countries had started rolling out vaccines, Zimbabwe adopted a measured approach, with experts interrogating all safety concerns,” said VP Chiwenga.
“As soon as all technical and administrative obligations are met, Zimbabweans can expect to be vaccinated. The vaccination is going to be voluntary. Let me underscore that my ministry is doing everything possible to ensure that our citizens are safe from possible side effects of some Covid-19 vaccines, currently on the shelf.”
In response to the spike in Covid-19 cases, he said the Government has introduced a number of measures.
These include a 30-day national lockdown which started on January 1 this year and revitalised testing, contact tracing and treatment of patients.
He said the ministry has also stepped-up awareness programmes across all media.
“About three percent of our active cases warranted hospitalisation with specialised treatment, 12 to 13 percent required discharge within two days of admission while the 85 percent only required self-isolation,” said VP Chiwenga.
“Some administrative issues that posed a gridlock in the smooth admission of Covid-19 patients in our hospitals have since been resolved. Among them was, Government’s extension of Covid-19 allowances to incentivise our health care workers, frontline workers, civil servants and vulnerable members of our society and the provision of PPEs.”
VP Chiwenga said if the need arises in future, the ministry may consider options of increasing the number of facilities designated for Covid-19 or designate more hospitals to take in patients.
“In a worst-case scenario, that has so far not manifested, all hospitals in the country may be directed to take in citizens affected by Covid-19. In my capacity as your Minister of Health and Child Care, I want to take this opportunity to urge our beloved citizens not to panic and that they should rely on official information.”
Government, VP Chiwenga said, may not extend the 30-day national lockdown if the progression of the pandemic is tamed.
This will be on condition that cases go down as statistics indicate a marginal increase in new cases.
“The prevailing situation is posing a grave threat to public health as denoted by a summary of figures. We should continue to observe guidelines of wearing masks, observing social distance and sanitization. If all our people maintained a positive attitude towards measures to combat the coronavirus, there was not going to be any need for imposition of a national lockdown,” VP Chiwenga said.
He said the Government was aware that lockdown measures are hurting the socio-economic livelihoods, freedoms, rights and liberties of individuals.
However, he said the measures may be necessary if members for the public continue displaying reckless behaviours which may put them at risk of Covid-19.
“The National Covid-19 Taskforce will also continue discharging a critical function of information-sharing through deliberate awareness campaign programmes. The awareness programmes are fashioned in all languages and are widely disseminated through all media platforms and Government structures,” he said.
“The National Covid-19 Taskforce coordinates its efforts through resident ministers in every province, who ensure that information is cascaded to district, ward and village levels. Government is also mobilising traditional and church leaders among other opinion leaders to conscientise citizens on the effects of the deadly pandemic.”
VP Chiwenga assured citizens that Government is seized with the requirement to further increase testing capacity.
“Currently, we have a capacity of testing at least 6 000 people per day. I want to remain focused on finding safe and durable solutions to prevent the scourge from claiming a huge toll of casualties in Zimbabwe,” he said. – @thammoe.