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Zim govt frets over Covid-19 third wave

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THE government has instructed the police to tackle unauthorised public transport operators as the authorities fear an imminent third wave of Covid-19 infections. Due to lack of compliance with Covid-19 regulations such as social distancing, the police law and order department will now step-up surveillance, the government says. 

NYASHA CHINGONO
Since the government eased the lockdown in February following a surge in cases after the Christmas holidays, Zimbabweans have largely become complacent, disregarding social distancing, mask wearing and the washing of hands. 

During this week’s cabinet briefing, the government said the vehicle surveillance will be spearheaded by the Vehicle Inspectorate Department (VID), the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) and the The Zimbabwe Traffic Safety Council. 

“Cabinet notes with concern the upsurge in the use of unauthorised passenger-carrying vehicles that are not affiliated to ZUPCO (Zimbabwe United Passenger Company) on the roads. Social distancing and other Covid-19 measures are hardly being observed by passengers in these vehicles,” cabinet says. 

As winter fast approaches, experts have expressed concern over an imminent third wave of infections as witnessed by a daily increase in infections.

Zimbabwe has been recording new Covid-19 cases daily, sparking fears of another lockdown.  

The government says public complacency had led to a marginal increase in cases, although the authorities are positive the current vaccination programme would spare the country from severe cases. 

As such, the government will step up surveillance and enforcement of Covid-19 rules in a bid to curb infections. 

“In light of the general lack of compliance with Covid-19 regulations by citizens, the law-and-order sub-committee will step up surveillance and enforcements, including community engagement on the risks associated with such complacency,” cabinet said. 

The authorities have also noticed complacency and lack of discipline by restaurants and beer halls in complying with stipulated closing times. 

While the government maintains that restaurants and pubs close at 9pm, some beerhalls are open until the wee hours of the morning, heightening risks of an upsurge in infections. 

“The nation is reminded that all beerhalls, bars, pubs and nightclubs remain closed. Bottle stores should strictly open for takeaways, as required by the law. Restaurants are expected to continue to be open for 50% sit-in capacity, takeaways, and deliveries. Cabinet approved that the operating times for the restaurants be extended to 9pm,” cabinet said. 

The government’s “back to school plan” has also been blighted by increased infections in schools, where school children, at several institutions of learning around the country, have tested positive for Covid-19. 

About 126 new cases had been detected in schools around the country, heightening fears of a widespread Covid-19 outbreak in schools. Despite a slow start to the vaccination programme, Zimbabwe have warmed up to the Sinopharm and Sinovac vaccines. 

Although many Zimbabweans are still sceptical of the Chinese vaccines due to misinformation and a poor comminunication thrust, the authorities say daily inoculations are encouraging as the country pushes for 60% herd immunity by December 2021. 

As of 3 May 2021, a total of437 751 people had received their first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine and 99 765 their second dose across the country. 

Health expert Solwayo Ngwenya said the third wave had already hit the country as witnessed by the daily surge in cases. 

“The third wave is already here. A wave is seen by recording new daily cases. The last wave got to lowest daily cases of 11 per day, then the cases started rising again. We are already recording daily new cases,” Ngwenya said. 

Ngwenya said government should increase testing and contact tracing to curb the spread of the virus. He also urged the government to revise the school calendar.

“I urge government to reconsider continuing the school calendar. They should consider closing schools as there are a lot of cases in schools. I do not think they are able to test every child in every school. If they do not deal with the infections from the schools, very soon it will transmit into the community once the schools are closed and very soon, we will reach the peak of the wave,” Ngwenya warned. 

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