ZIMBABWE is facing crunch time in its battle to curb rising COVID-19 infections and deaths as the third wave grips the country, medical experts said yesterday.
This comes after the World Health Organisation (WHO) on Friday warned that the situation will get worse in Africa as COVID-19 cases rise at a time when health institutions were failing to handle new admissions.
On Saturday, Zimbabwe recorded 10 COVID-19 deaths, which brought the number of people who succumbed to the virus last week to 40, with an average of five people dying daily.
Infections have been on the rise in the past week with 408 cases recorded on Friday and 293 on Saturday.
Zimbabwe has now recorded 1 666 deaths from 41 628 infections. Medical and Dental Private Practitioners of Zimbabwe Association president Johannes Marisa told NewsDay that the latest figures were enough warning for the country to improve its poor testing as the number of infections could actually be understated.
“We are in big trouble, not only in Zimbabwe, but in other southern African countries as well. The virus is affecting some countries, which were previously recording low cases in previous waves. We need to be very cautious. We may experience the worst fatalities of the pandemic since we were hard-hit in 2020, especially at a time when we do not have enough resources to deal with the Indian and South Af-rican variants.
“Due to extreme poverty, some are not even affording sanitisers and face masks. In Africa, we also do not have enough vaccines. There is poor health education on the pandemic, which is also another big challenge. There is also the issue of poor testing facilities and contact-tracing, which will worsen the situation,” Marisa said.
Community Working Group on Health executive director Itai Rusike said poor testing could result in a large number of cases be-ing unaccounted for.
“As the country witnesses a new spike in COVID-19 cases and deaths, with rapid testing, authorities can stay a step ahead by scaling up active case finding in challenging environments in urban and rural communities,” Rusike said.
“Testing is the first key line of de-fence against the virus as it allows for the isolation of cases to slow transmission and enhances provision of targeted care to those infected. Testing is also essential for the delivery of COVID-19 vaccines.
“The COVID-19 reality on the ground is worse than the official figures as a lot more people may be infected and moving around without knowing their status. This third wave is highly infectious and spreading devastatingly quickly.”
WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Friday said COVID-19 infections in Africa had increased by over 52%, with deaths increasing by 32% in the past week.
He said African countries were likely to be overwhelmed by the surge in COVID-19 cases due to vaccine shortages.