Vice President Chiwenga says all is in place to fight new COVID-19 variant
By Letwin Mubonesi
Vice-president Constantino Chiwenga yesterday advised citizens not to panic as government had put in place adequate measures including tight border controls to contain the new deadly COVID-19 variant, B.1.1.529 detected in South Africa and Botswana.
Addressing a Health Professions Authority congress in Harare, Chiwenga said, “The ministry would also want to assure the nation that there is no need to panic as the above measures are in place and will mitigate against any variant. Investigations on the significance of this and other characteristics are being done and the public will be notified as information is made available.
“New samples will be collected for genomic sequencing surveillance from among the cases being detected at points of entry and from clusters. Strict monitoring of movements at points of entry is being intensified to minimise the introduction of this new variant into the country.”
United Kingdom has red-listed Zimbabwe, Botswana, eSwatini, Namibia and South Africa as hotspots and banned flights to and from the Southern African countries for fear of contracting the killer virus.
Chief co-ordinator of the COVID-19 taskforce Agnes Mahomva said, “The new variant is one of the worst but we are prepared for it, we have pushed for public vaccination and we had a good response. We are very strategic in terms of our work so we continue to urge the public not to panic.”
Community Working Group on Health executive director, Itai Rusike expressed concern that the new variant could spread faster during the festive season as people will be travelling to various places.
“With low numbers of people getting vaccinated and the porous land borders, a lot of people from South Africa can sneak into the country without having been properly screened thereby putting the health and safety of their relatives and friends at risk of being infected.
“We need to tighten surveillance and screening at our borders and airports and even take some draconian preventive measures just like what the UK has just done by temporarily suspending flights from South Africa, including the surrounding countries, or else the fourth wave will hit us hard and further paralyse our broken public health delivery system,” he said.
However, Medical and Dental Private Practitioners Zimbabwe Association president Johannes Marisa also expressed concern over complacency by Zimbabweans.
“This is unfortunate. With the complacency shown by Zimbabweans and other citizens in Southern Africa this will have disastrous consequences.
“The world is threatened by an expanding list of pandemics, as we enter a third year of the COVID-19 pandemic. The same laws, policies and strong people-centered health services needed to end Aids, will also help the world overcome COVID-19,’’ said Marisa.