Editor's Comment

Guard against another wave

MASKING up is a must at Lusaka’s Kabulonga Girls Secondary School. PICTURES: CHONGO SAMPA

WHILE it is heartening that Zambia has in recent days witnessed a steady decrease of COVID-19 cases, with an average of 92 percent recovery rate, the highest in the world, it is too early and highly risky to drop the guard now.
It is good that the recovery rate in Zambia is higher than both the continental and global average, which stands at 88 percent and 77 percent respectively.
This report, as heartening as it may be, should not get people excited to the point of abandoning the health regulations against COVID-19.
As Minister of Health Jonas Chanda has warned, Zambia may record an increase in the number of COVID-19 infections in June and July this year if citizens drop the guard against the pandemic.
The minister is right in saying: “It is possible that in June/July during the cold season when flu infections are high, we may possibly have an escalation in coronavirus cases or what is commonly known as the third wave.
“Zambians should not take things for granted because if we don’t follow these guidelines, we will experience the third wave,” he said.
Indeed Zambia cannot afford to forget so quickly that after the first wave it seemed as though COVID-19 had ended and never to come back.
Even when experts warned of a second wave it sounded like mere rhetoric to many people, who went about their business as though there was no pandemic.
Our memories are still fresh on how COVID cases reduced drastically between August and October such that some isolation centres had to be closed because there were no more patients.
Even then warnings came, but some people did not take heed because as far as they were concerned, there would be no second wave.
People were also deceived by the fact that the experience of the first wave in the country was not as deadly as it was in the Western countries, where people were dying in thousands every day.
The number of infections and deaths in Zambia was generally in single digits and exceptional cases in double figures each day. Cumulatively after the first wave Zambia recorded about 20,000 cases with 300 deaths.
In the second wave the cumulative cases have skyrocketed to 79,557 while deaths have reached 1,104.
It is indisputable that the second wave was much deadlier and people began to put names and faces to statistics.
The experience of the second wave offers candid lessons that COVID regulations must be followed religiously even when cases seem to be subsiding.
The infectious nature of COVID-19 makes even the existence of one case a high risk for reinfection. This is why in some towns of New Zealand, for instance, just one case triggers a lockdown.
So, for as long as there are still some cases of COVID in Zambia or in other parts of the world, adherence to health regulations must continue.
This is the only way to sustain the gains attained in the fight against COVID so far.
As noted by Dr Chanda, research and science have shown that if the guidelines are followed, coronavirus infections can be cut down by 80 percent. There’s need for people to take responsibility and relieve the health personnel who have been working tirelessly to save lives.
It is commendable that the Ministry of Health has been given treasury authority to recruit 400 more health workers to meet the rising health care demand due to the high number of COVID cases.
This will go a long way in building capacity to deal with high numbers of COVID cases.
We hope that those responsible for recruitment will expedite the process to ensure that the health workers are employed before June. This is a high-risk period because the virus thrives more in cold weather.
While Government is doing its part by building health care capacity, the public must also be responsible and ensure that they do not spread the disease or put themselves in harm’s way.
It’s everyone’s responsibility to guard against a third wave.

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