Zimbabwe's government says the COVID-19 pandemic is "under control" in the country, following several days with few or no reported deaths and few infections from the virus. But doctors are warning against complacency and say a fresh wave of infections is likely coming.
After this week’s cabinet meeting, Information Minister Monica Mutsvangwa told journalists that Zimbabwe was managing the COVID-19 situation.
“The number of COVID-19 cases in schools is declining. The number of people in need of hospitalization for COVID-19 also decreased, with no patients under intensive care. In general, therefore, this indicates that the national response measures instituted by government continue to pay off and that the pandemic is being brought under control,” Mutsvangwa said.
Dr. Norman Matara, the head of Zimbabwe Association for Doctors for Human Rights, agrees with the government’s assessment.
“We do agree that at the present moment the COVID-19 pandemic has been brought control, as shown by the figures. The World Health Organization says that the COVID-19 pandemic, which is out of control, is signified by a positive rate of more than 5% and anything below 5% is a well-controlled pandemic. Our positivity rate for the past three-four weeks has been less than 2.5%,” Matara said.
Matara warned Zimbabweans to maintain protective measures against the virus.
“However, we need to guard against complacence. There is danger of another wave coming in, another strain coming in especially when we have not achieved a herd immunity,” Matara said.
Zimbabwe has fully inoculated just above 2.7 million people since February when it began its vaccination program to contain the COVID-19 pandemic.
The government has a target of vaccinating at least 10 million Zimbabweans — or 60% of the population — by the end of the year.
Dr. Cleophas Chimbetete, president of Zimbabwe College of Public Health Physicians, says it’s not time to relax until that is achieved.
“We know that predictions are that we will have a fourth wave. So my advice to the government is that this is the time to continue to double efforts to make sure that more and more Zimbabweans get vaccinated. Furthermore, this is the time to strengthen our management pillar as we anticipate a fourth wave. It is important that we capacitate hospitals across the nation. Not just in our major cities and towns, but in every district in every province of the district,” Chimbetete said.
Carlos Caceres, the International Monetary Fund resident representative in Zimbabwe, says his organization is happy with authorities’ swift response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Nonetheless, the pandemic took a severe toll on the economic and humanitarian situation—with Zimbabwe’s economy contracting cumulatively by about 11 percent during 2019-20 owing to the combined effects of the pandemic, Cyclone Idai, a protracted drought, and weakened policy buffers. Following a severe wave from June to August 2021, COVID-19 infection rates have slowed significantly, lockdown measures have been eased, and the vaccination program continues steadily,” Caceres said.
Overall, Zimbabwe has 133,505 confirmed coronavirus infections and 4,698 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center, which tracks the global outbreak.