Thursday, 16 July 2020

LOCAL COVID-19 TRANSMISSIONS SPIKE


COVID-19 community infections are increasing sharply, with health experts warning of higher statistics if Zimbabweans fail to take heed of health advice.

There has been a spike in local transmission cases over the past weeks, partly owing to Covid-19 positive patients escaping from quarantine centres and interacting with communities.

Health experts say intensified mass testing will help in arresting the spread of the virus in the country.

Bulawayo and Harare remain the worst affected provinces in the country, followed by Matabeleland South and the Midlands provinces. What is worrying is that the source of most of the local transmissions cases is not known.

As of Wednesday, Zimbabwe had a total of 346 community infections and 743 imported cases.

On that day, 22 new local transmission cases were recorded and only one is a contact of a known confirmed Covid-19 patient, while the source of infection for the rest were not known.

Between March and May, local transmissions were very low as most Covid-19 cases were being reported from people with a travel history. 

On March 28, Zimbabwe had seven Covid-19 cases from returning residents and their contacts. The trajectory continued into April and May when most cases were being reported from people with travel history.

However as from June the tables turned.

The number of local transmissions started rising, with the highest numbers of local transmissions being reported in July.

Last Saturday, 30 local transmission cases were recorded in one day, while 10 cases were reported from returning residents.

The following day, 49 people tested positive, with 28 returning residents and 21 cases from local transmissions. On Monday, another 30 Covid-19 cases were reported: 16 local transmissions and 14 imported cases.

The director of epidemiology and disease control in the Ministry of Health and Child Care Dr Portia Manangazira, during a live-streamed update on the pandemic, said it was worrying that community infections were on the rise. 

Dr Manangazira urged people to stay at home if they had no business outside of home.

She said what was more worrying was a sense of false immunity to the virus amongst people in shared community spaces such as offices, supermarkets and other workplaces.

“We witness a very worrying trend in terms of the increase in the number of cases, but also a different epidemiological trend when we compare to March when we confirmed our first case. During that time, we would report up to a maximum of four cases per day. However, as we came to the end of May, it seems as though we have not had a single day where we have had no new cases. In the last five days, we have had an average of 20-25 new cases per day. The majority of the cases have been imported, but our local transmission cases are also growing rapidly. Recently most cases are being reported from local transmissions and not returning residents, which is also quite worrying,” she said.

“On 5 July there was a report of 18 new cases, however on July 7, the figure jumped to 53, and on July 8 we had 98 cases added, of which 47 were local transmissions. We really need to tighten up our prevention and control measures. We continue to see new cases; we have to talk about prevention and control even within the home.”

Dr Manangazira expressed worry that such a trend may result in more patients needing intensive care services and ventilators than what is available.

“This is the time to plan for surge capacity, where our patients in need of ventilators and ICU will exceed the number of life saving units available, we need to plan on that now. In the event that those ten ventilators or ICU beds are exceeded, we need to plan on what to do with the overflow. People are still moving willy nilly, even when there is nothing pressing. Our key message remains, please stay at home. Even those with exemptions, do your work and go back home. Wear your mask properly, wash your hands. We appeal to everybody to observe those preventive measures because the cases are rising alarmingly,” said Dr Manangazira.

Mpilo Central Hospital Clinical director and Acting CEO, Dr Solwayo Ngwenya said the rising community infections called for a different stance in fighting Covid-19, one which requires active individual effort to stay safe.

“The Covid-19 fight must now be fought at individual level. Now that we know about community infections, it means that Covid-19 is no longer far away but is all around us. While health authorities can do so much, the individual must also ensure that they do as much as possible to protect themselves from this virus. The highest standards of hygiene must be maintained. Hand washing, social distancing, properly wearing the mask in public and staying at home as much as possible to stay safe,” said Dr Ngwenya. 

“It is worrying that people have not been taking head of advice from health personnel, but probably since the statistics are there for all to see, people are dying, perhaps they will be moved. The virus is all over, people do not see that once you leave your doorstep and go to public spaces, you are in danger of contracting it, or spreading it, so it is best to stay home. People don’t appear to care. People don’t see that Covid-19 is much closer than they would like to think.” Chronicle

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