GOVERNMENT yesterday called for more vigilance amid rising cases of COVID-19, with health experts expressing concern over government priorities after it spurned a single dose vaccine manufactured by United States pharmaceutical company, Johnson & Johnson, at a time when the Midlands city of Kwekwe has recorded more cases of the Indian variant .
In a post-Cabinet briefing, Information minister Monica Mutsvanga said citizens should continue to observe the COVID-19 stipulated guidelines as the country was not out of the woods.
This comes as the country has been recording a surge in infections in the past days.
A Health and Child Care ministry COVID-19 situational report last night showed that Zimbabwe had recorded six new deaths and 83 new infections since Monday night.
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Counting from last Wednesday, Zimbabwe has been recording 33, 61, 52, 24, 21, 49 and 83 new infections respectively.
“Under case management, the nation is advised that the Health ministry continues to work tirelessly in managing cases of COVID-19 detected in different parts of the country, including in colleges and schools,” she said.
Mutsvangwa said government had also approved the extension of the Kwekwe lockdown by another two to contain the Indian strain of the disease recorded in the Midlands city last month.
“Cabinet has approved that the lockdown in Kwekwe be extended by a further two weeks. This comes in the wake of a surge in positive cases in the city. The Indian variant has been detected in some of the new cases,” Mutsvangwa said.
On Monday, 27 people, including children and members of staff at Mary Ward Children’s home in Kwekwe tested positive to COVID-19. The country also recorded five coronavirus-related deaths on the same day, bringing the total of cumulative infections to 39 238 and 1 611 deaths.
Last month, Bondolfi Teachers’ College in Masvingo also recorded 94 cases of COVID-19.
Citizen Health Watch executive director Fungisai Dube said Zimbabweans were worried about the shortage of vaccines.
“We are concerned that Sinovac and Sinopharm vaccines are running short, which will leave millions of people exposed to the virus,” Dube said.
Community Working Group on Health executive director Itai Rusike said: “The mounting deaths from COVID-19 and a rise in new cases show us that the third wave is already upon us. It seems that there has not been enough attention on the procurement and equitable distribution of vaccines, especially now that we are in the winter season with a high risk of exacerbating the COVID-19 infections.”
He said communities were questioning why the vaccines had not been delivered to vaccination centres experiencing stock-outs.
“The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is generally safe as it is being used in many countries and a person is far more likely to be harmed by COVID-19 than by the vaccine. It’s important to note that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine requires a cold chain of between nine degrees and 25 degrees, something that our existing cold chain is able to maintain.”
Medical and Dental Private Practitioners of Zimbabwe Association president Johannes Marisa said: “It’s unfortunate that we only vaccinated around 600 000 people and we ran short of the vaccines. Considering that five people have already been reported dead, the gravity of the matter can even be worse considering that we are not doing much testing.”
COVID-19 Cabinet taskforce chief co-ordinator Agnes Mahomva refused to be drawn into commenting on the possibility of the third wave of the virus having already hit the country.
But Zimbabwe Senior Hospital Doctors Association president Shingai Nyaguse said there was need for authorities to be on high alert and not lower the guard.
“Maintaining our border security is also crucial to controlling numbers locally. We are hoping the government will give further explanation as to why they turned down the Johnson and Johnson vaccine. If it is an issue of efficacy, they should say so because storage should not be a problem. Training and capacitation of frontline workers should continue before numbers become too high,” Nyaguse said.