Sunday, 18 July 2021


IN a worrying development, Covid-19 has claimed the life of a year-old baby in Bulawayo, while the number of younger people seeking hospitalisation after contracting the disease are on the increase.

Officials told Sunday News that Covid-19 was also detected in two other toddlers in the last fortnight as it is suspected that the highly infectious Delta variant is spreading fast even among young people. Announcing the extension of the Level 4 lockdown on Tuesday last week, President Mnangagwa said the variant was now responsible for 80 percent of new infections in the country.

The variant was originally detected in India where it accounted for most of the cases which griped the Asian country.

In Zimbabwe, the variant was first detected in Kwekwe in May. In an interview with Sunday News, Mpilo Central Hospital acting chief executive officer Professor Solwayo Ngwenya said over the past two weeks, the hospital had seen an increase in the number of young people admitted at the hospital with the virus, while it had also claimed the life of a one-year-old. Prof Ngwenya said this had not been the case with previous strains of the virus they had dealt with.

“For the first time, we are seeing this virus killing very young people. It is killing people as young as one-year-old. It is taking 22 and 25-year-olds. It’s different from the first time when it was taking the lives of people that are in the 60 to 80-year-old group. This time it seems to be attacking all the groups. It also has the potential to wipe out whole families from young to old.

“As I mentioned, the virus has killed a one-year-old and we have detected it in a three-month-old baby and nine-month baby. It appears that that it goes for all the age groups. This happened in the last two weeks. We have also lost one or two pregnant women so this is a very serious thing,” he said.

Prof Ngwenya also said the hospital was witnessing an increasing number of admittances, as Delta spread faster than other variants. Professor Neil Ferguson, a leading epidemiologist at Imperial College London and one of the chief pandemic advisers to the UK Government, last month said that Delta is estimated to be 60 percent more transmissible than the Alpha variant, which is itself more transmissible than the original strain of the coronavirus that emerged in Wuhan, China in late 2019.

The executive director of the World Health Organisation’s Health Emergencies Programme, Dr Mike Ryan, last month said of the Delta variant: “. . . it is faster, it is fitter, (and) it will pick off the more vulnerable more efficiently than previous variants.”

At Mpilo, Prof Ngwenya said lives were being lost at a faster rate since the discovery of the variant.

“People come in very sick and some of them die within hours of admission. This variant appears, and this is also from trends we have seen outside the country, it appears to lodge directly in the lungs causing pneumonia. So, it doesn’t lodge in the nose and when you test those people you find that they are negative despite the fact that they have Covid-19. Some of the deaths caused by the variant are therefore Covid-19 negative from tests,” he said.

Prof Ngwenya advised members of the public to adhere to Covid-19 prevention guidelines, as the new strain had the potential to wipe out entire families.

The concerns comes as the country on Friday set a record for number of Covid-19 deaths registered in a day, with 102 people succumbing to the virus. The previous record, 86, was recorded only two days prior.

Accoridng to the Ministry of Health and Child Care, six of the fatalities were in Bulawayo, where 138 people tested positive for Covid-19. A total of 2 296 people around the country contracted the virus while there were 1 365 recoveries. The national recovery rate stands at 63 percent, with 27 509 active cases.

There were 762 people hospitalised, including 78 new admissions. Of those admitted, 265 were asymptomatic, 423 were mild to moderate, 57 were severe and 17 were in intensive care units.

However, the country’s vaccination drive remains a silver lining during the third Covid-19 wave, as the number of people that have received their first dose of the Covid-19 jab finally broke the million barrier, with 1 096 002 people vaccinated so far. A total of 59 750 receiving their first dose, while 5 128 received their second injection. Sunday News


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