Editor's Comment

Keep the guard up

News that cases of COVID-19 are dropping rapidly in Zambia is being received with a collective sigh of relief.  Evidently, many believe that their worst fears are past and Zambia will not get the frighteningly high fatalities being reported in other parts of the world.
With only five people still being attended to in public facilities and with a comparatively low death toll of about 350 in about eight months, Zambians have every reason to believe that the country has what it takes to keep the disease at bay.
This, however, is no time to drop the guard.  If anything, now is time to reflect on what was done; improve or perfect the preventive measures; and ensure that the new normal is embraced.
Zambia should keep learning from what is happening in other parts of the world, such as Europe, where the guard was dropped and there is again a spike in the number of cases.
The 346 people who have died in Zambia is indeed a comparatively small figure considering the hundreds of thousands that have died in some countries, but any one death is a death too many.  Every life must be treasured and if it can be saved, it must.
While Europe and the Americas are still perplexed that they are unable to effectively curb the spread and deaths, Zambia and some other countries in Africa are keeping the infections pretty low.
For Zambia, this is no coincidence.  The country’s health authorities have been proactive in putting up the country’s guard and getting every denizen well informed on dos and don’ts in this fight.
The public’s overwhelming support for health prevention programmes significantly helped to stem the spread of the disease.
Even as the epicentre kept changing, most Zambians took the desired precautions and, today, they are well.  The desire is to ensure that they continue being well and this can only be so if they keep the guard up.
Unfortunately, there are still many members of the public who still disregard health regulations. They do not wash hands, they do not social distance and they don’t mask up.
With society re-opening to various social and economic activities, it has become even more important to ensure adherence to health regulations.
Social gatherings are at full throttle once again: bars and restaurants are crowded; public passenger vehicles have no regard for social distancing; weddings and church events are full again; and soon crowds will start returning to soccer stadiums.
This is well and good.  Businesses have to be revamped, but this must be done with due regard to the fact that COVID-19 is still in our midst.
Community involvement has been critical in curbing the spread of the virus.  This participation is expected to continue even with the fight seemingly won.
The low numbers may continue elongating the tail which can swing back to high levels if the community relaxes too much.
Prevention measures must continue. Citizens should continue preaching adherence to guidelines.
COVID-19 is a disease that was imported, but internal social contacts contributed to it being spread and it is for this reason that the declining of infections should not mean the end of the disease.
Zambia is surrounded by eight other countries and there is both regularised and irregular movement of people across borders, which puts the country at constant threat for possible importation of communicable diseases, in this case – COVID-19.
With international travel restrictions easing but with Europe and America seeing a spike, there is a high risk of cases being imported.
The world can only be safe with a vaccine that is safe and accessible and affordable. Until then, the guard must remain up.
As such, there is need to move resources from hospital management to prevention. There is need to increase the supply of sanitisers.  More emphasis must also be put on testing for both road and air entries of those travelling into the country. Wearing masks, just as minimising unnecessary travel and observing social distancing, must not be relaxed.
It is sad that faces in masks are getting fewer on the busy streets, shop corridors and around offices where people are gathering or brushing into each other. If such continues unchecked, because there might be some strange comfort that it is hot and the virus cannot survive in high temperatures, Zambia is at a risk of getting a second wave of COVID-19.
This is the situation that needs to be guarded against because if the second wave were to hit our country, the response might not be as effective as the first time around.
The good that needs to be done is to continue enforcing the health guidelines that have helped the country to flatten the COVID-19 curve while praying that the vaccine or effective treatment is found quickly.

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