Health experts have warned that the third wave of Covid-19 will strike Africa if people continue violating public health measures.
The logic is that as long as preventative measures such as adhering to lockdown rules, wearing masks, sanitisation, social distancing are in place, local systems can cope – but once these guidelines are relaxed, Covid-19 infections spread rapidly.
Southern Africa is currently carrying the burden of the second wave of Covid-19 in the continent with more than 100 cases per million reported a day, as countries such as Zimbabwe and South Africa are recording new cases daily.
Zimbabwe with an estimated population of 16 million, as of January 21, 2021 surpassed the 30 000 mark, with 30 047 confirmed Covid-19 cases and 917 deaths. This was after 639 cases were reported and 38 deaths in the last 24 hours.
Deputy Director of Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Dr Ahmed Ogwell Ouma, said avoiding a third wave of Covid-19 depended purely on Africa’s response now in handling the virus until the end of April.
“If we respect public health measures we can avoid a third wave, if we don’t respect public health measures then the risk is quite high.”
The health expert said another solution to curb spread of infections was to vaccinate people.
“So if we start vaccinating relatively earlier as we expect or planned to do from the end of February to March then we can already start having immunity belted up within the community. But it is difficult to say that now because we still don’t have the vaccine and we still are not clear how members of the public in Africa will keep their part of the bargain by respecting the public health measures,” he said.
Dr Ogwell said it was hard to tell when the second wave will end as they did not know if it has reached its peak.
“We can’t be able to say when the second wave will peak. We are a bit worried as during the festivities we saw, looking at the media, that people were not exactly respecting public health measures. We worry that within the next two months maybe a bit difficult for the continent,” he said.
“As a result of that we can’t tell when it will end but it’s our intention to work with countries as hard as we can to be able to keep it within January but we cannot be able to tell how it will end.”
In Zimbabwe, a majority of people who rely on informal trade have said balancing public health measures, practical concerns around the coronavirus and the ailing economy can be hard because stricter Covid-19 measures, made it difficult for them to eke a living.
“Discipline is now the key,” said Professor Solwayo Ngwenya, Acting Chief Executive of Mpilo Central Hospital in Bulawayo, who has been strongly urging people to adhere to the lockdown orders.
Prof Nwenya concurred that despite the daily rise in infections, the county had not reached the second wave peak
“Have we reached the peak? Unfortunately the answer is a big no. This is just the beginning of a catastrophe. We must all change our behaviour immediately. Soon we will be needing oxygen, dying, and buried!! The catastrophe that we warned about has been allowed to arrive here. All hands on the deck, keep safe,” he said.
A veteran journalist, Tapfuma Machakaire, who covered the AIDS pandemic in the 1990s and deadly diseases such as Cholera, said Covid-19 was probably causing more harm in societies which people should realise.
“In as much as authorities call for the public to respect health measures, there’s the issue of economic challenges that Zimbabweans face, with an estimated 90 percent in informal trade this means the measures enshrined in the lockdown order has stretched beyond what people can afford,” he said
“People tend to relax on some measures such as sanitisation upon entry of every business premise and proper wearing of masks, which is to the detriment of society and the third wave can’t be dismissed with peoples’ own contribution of not following laid down rules,” the veteran said.