Christmas spirit dampened by reports of new Covid-19 variant

2020 has been a hectic year for a majority of Zimbabweans due to the Covid-19 pandemic and economic decline that increased poverty levels and more worrying are fresh reports of a rapidly spreading new coronavirus variant in South Africa when the country just reopened its border.

The announcement of the coronavirus variant added to anxieties at a time when cities such as Bulawayo are recording an increase in cases.  

Zimbabwe is about to hit 13 000 Covid-19 cases, as of December 23, 2020 the country recorded 12 656 confirmed cases with 10 259 recoveries and 330 deaths.

112 new cases were recorded in the last 24 hours including four deaths.

Of the 112 cases, 111 are local transmissions while one is from a returnee from South Africa.

Neighbouring South Africa reported 14 046 new Covid-19 cases Wednesday, its highest-ever single-day increase, bringing the country’s total number of confirmed infections to 954 258.   

Africa’s second-largest economy is currently experiencing a second wave of the pandemic and noted of a “highly concerning” new variant of coronavirus known as 501Y.V2 that is suspected to be fuelling a rise in cases.

The emergence of the new variant has coincided with what the Africa Centre of Disease (CDC) Control called the second wave of Covid-19 in Africa, in which the number of infections and deaths has risen in some countries.

Africa CDC has urged countries to step up testing and tracing as well as genomic sequencing to pick up the prevalence of the new strain or strains.

Locally, authorities have called for people to limit Christmas gatherings and take precautions seriously in a bid to control the spread of the virus.

A specialist community physician,  Dr Nyasha Masuka encouraged the use of the same preventative guidelines but this time advised people to be more careful.

“We urge people, especially with news of a different strain of Covid-19 which is causing more harm including in young people. People must strengthen physical distancing, sanitise and wear masks all the time,” he said in an interview with CITE.

“Avoid public parties and most importantly a lot of us want to spend holidays with families in rural areas but it is crucial that we shield grandparents away from Covid-19, so I say don’t go. If it is really necessary to go, the eldest must stay in one room and the younger in another. We have to be extra careful, the second wave is real and proving to be much more dangerous.”

Dr Masuka acknowledged that Zimbabwe’s borders were porous and are a bigger problem than Covid-19.

“But this is best left to authorities to provide enough security, manpower to patrol and minimise illegal entries to stop any spread,” said the health expert.

In a Christmas message, ZAPU president, Isaac Mabuka concurred that 2020 had been a tough year due to the effect Covid-19 had socially and politically.

“This year has been the most hectic year since the time our country and all Africa were fighting for self determination and independence from colonialism. Jobs were lost, poverty increased, social vulnerability expanded as our health system is near non existent,” he said.

“The  world, found flat footed, battled an invisible enemy with China suffering its viciousness first at the close of last year, with the whole world succumbing to the viral attack from as early as the first month if this year. Developing third world economies suffered the most, chiefly because the Corona pandemic found them already battling maladministration and corruption by the governments.”

Mabuka noted that Zimbabwe included, found itself under strict regulations that included total national and world lockdown, self isolating, social distancing and these brought with them serious knock on the world economy.

“We also found ourselves at the mercy of a repressive system that took advantage of the pandemic to further entrench itself and also violate further our most basic rights. We lost most of our productive time to the pandemic as we became even more impoverished. As the year draws to the end, it is my wish, and indeed ZAPU’s wish that the coming year brings the much needed relief to our people,” he said.

“May I encourage us to remember the socially and economically disadvantaged among our societies. These include child-headed families, the homeless, the sick and the elderly. This is most imperative in the face of government failure and abdication of its duties. Let us avoid driving under the influence. Let us always mask up and follow all regulations to avoid spreading and contracting coronavirus,” he said.

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