Thandeka Moyo-Ndlovu, Senior Health Reporter
ZIMBABWEANS should ensure they always follow laid down Covid-19 prevention measures to avoid the introduction of deadlier strains of the disease in the country as the virulent Indian Delta variant now accounts for 79 percent of infections.
The Beta strain first detected in neighbouring South Africa accounts for 16 percent of the cases followed by the Alpha variant detected in the United Kingdom which accounts for 2,5 percent.
Illegal cross-border activities, failing to mask-up properly, crowding and visiting drinking spots are among activities that fuel mutations of the virus and bring new variants into the country.
A total of 462 Covid-19 related deaths were recorded in the past week.
Over the past seven days the country recorded a total of 10 900 new Covid-19 cases and 462 deaths mostly from health institutions.
The Delta variant was first detected in Zimbabwe in June which prompted the Government to tighten lockdown conditions to avert new infections and deaths which have been on the upward trend since then.
Scientists have said that the Delta variant is 50 percent more contagious than the Alpha variant.
As of August 2, Zimbabwe had 110 855 confirmed cases, including 79 420 recoveries and 3 635 deaths.
Zimbabwe has received a total of 6 785 000 doses so far of the Indian Covaxin, Chinese Sinopharm and Sinovac as well as Russia’s Sputnik V vaccines.
To date, a total of 1 674 710 people have received their first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, while 798 880 have received their second dose.
The country is targeting to vaccinate at least 10 million people to achieve herd immunity.
Statistics for the past two weeks also show that Zimbabwe is one of the five African countries that contributed to 80 percent of total recorded cases.
The other countries include South Africa, Tunisia, Namibia and Zambia.
Speaking during a fact checking training workshop hosted by the Gender Media Connect Zimbabwe (GMC), the World health Organisation Zimbabwe team leader Dr Lincoln Charimari said all viruses, including Covid-19, change over time through processes called mutations.
He said that some changes may affect the virus’ properties which include increase in transmissibility.
“These changes may also increase in virulence or change in clinical disease presentation, decrease in effectiveness of public health and social measures or available diagnostics, vaccines, therapeutics,” said Dr Charimari.
He said viruses that have above changes are referred to as a Variant of Concern (VOC).
“The Alpha (first detected in the UK) variant has been reported in 182 countries, territories or areas.
“The Beta variant first detected in South Africa has been reported in 131 countries,” he said.
“The Gamma variant (first detected in Brazil) was reported in 81 countries (three new countries); and The Delta variant (first detected in India) was reported in 132 countries (eight new countries).
“In Zimbabwe Delta is responsible for 79 percent of cases; Beta for 16 percent and Alpha for 2,5 percent. These proportions are dynamic and likely to change over time,” he said.
Dr Charimari said it was important for people to continue to get vaccinated to reduce their risk of hospitalisation and developing severe symptoms.
“Not less than six vaccines have since received the WHO Emergency Use Listing (EUL) approval including the Sinopharm and Sinovac currently being rolled out in Zimbabwe. The Medicines Control Authority of Zimbabwe (MCAZ) recently approved the use of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine in Zimbabwe. To date, over 1 million Zimbabweans have been fully vaccinated.”
Contacted for comment, health expert Professor Solwayo Ngwenya said if members of the public continue being complacent, they may attract worse off variants which is likely to lead to more deaths.
He said if nothing is done to change risky behaviours displayed by the public the more vicious variants like the Delta Plus could hit the country.
“Our people continue to disregard all the Covid-19 measures set by health experts and our Government although our deaths have continued to rise in an alarming manner. People are still attending funeral wakes, parties and even visiting each other,” he said.
“We now have a Delta Plus variant which is stronger and deadlier but still under investigation in other countries. There is another airborne variant still under investigation which may hit the country if we continue defying Government regulations.”
Prof Ngwenya called on the Government to continue monitoring these variants and how people are behaving so that the country is spared mass deaths and hospitalisations. [email protected]