COVID-19 second anniversary: vaccination remains best foot forward

By Abigirl Tembo, Health Editor

On the 20th of March 2020, Zimbabwe recorded its first case of COVID-19, joining the world as it entered the worst global pandemic in modern history.

Two years later, the virus has been responsible for more than six million deaths worldwide, and Zimbabwe has not been spared as 5 423 people have succumbed to the virus.

Nevertheless, government has made some significant strides in containing the spread of the virus.

One of the first survivors of COVID-19 in Zimbabwe, journalist Kudzai Madziire relives the days he tested positive for the virus.

“When you look back two years ago, testing positive for COVID-19 was more like a death sentence. There wasn’t any hope and the stigma was too much. For me, it was really traumatic as I was among the first cases. I was clueless, I did not know what to do. I did not even have any hope of surviving, but as we moved with time, people got to understand the virus then came the vaccination drive,” Kudzai says.

But no matter how dark the storm clouds, Government continues to focus on the small patches of blue sky, celebrating the milestones achieved in the fight against the virus.

“We have fared very well, but I just want to caution the nation that we are not yet out of the woods. Yes, we have gone through wave one, two, three and four, and that in itself  has given us very good experience in terms of what we need to do and what we need to strengthen. Based on those experiences, we have found ourselves strengthening the response. We have found ourselves going into these different waves, but with the strengthened response that has enabled us to see less numbers and less severe impact of the COVID-19,” notes Dr Agnes Mahomva, the Chief Coordinator of COVID-19 Response in the Office of the President and Cabinet.

She adds: “The biggest lesson that we have learnt is that this pandemic is not a one-person band. It is not a government-only thing. It is important for all the stakeholders to come together and we are very delighted and very proud of ourselves as Zimbabwe that from the word go, we were actually looking at the whole of government and whole of society approach and that really made us hit the ground running and we were much faster than other countries. For example, when we introduced our vaccination programme, it was really strengthened by the fact that we were working together with stakeholders. We have also learnt that complacency can throw you off. You might be doing so well, but if we suddenly relax, whether it’s the community, whether it’s us, government, with our response – things come up again and before you know it, you are running after the virus utilising additional resources that you would have utilised for other things.”

According to Dr Mahomva, vaccination remains the country’s biggest achievement yet, but also the biggest challenge.

“The area we did well is the introduction of our vaccination programme early and running with it. It is also the same area we need to do more and that is why we are actually working so hard to introduce this blitz that we are starting on Monday to really mop up and make sure that everyone who needs to be vaccinated is vaccinated. So, that’s our biggest success and our biggest challenge. The other biggest success that we have is really us quickly learning from the very start that we need to be self-sufficient and hence, we were there finding ways to encourage industry that we come up with lab consumables, to come up with PPES for example, so that we don’t depend on importing these commodities and as you see today, there is no one talking of importing a facemasks because we are manufacturing them here.”

Over the past two years in Zimbabwe, 244 452 people have tested positive for the virus. Some have lived through it while others have succumbed to the virus.