BY DER JOHANNNES MARISA
It is almost two years now after the first oubreak of the coronavirus in Wuhan province of China.
Many articles and stories have been written about Covid-19, however, many people still do not know even the symptoms and signs of Covid-19. We have encountered numerous deaths which are directly attributed to ignorance.
It is imperative to take Covid-19 very seriously if we are to avert further disaster. Zimbabwe is heading for a 3 000 death mark as incidence and daily mortality are on an upward trend.
Covid-19 is wreaking havoc everywhere in Zimbabwe, with rural areas also feeling the brunt of the demoniacal virus. Many African countries are hit hard with Zambia, Namibia, South Africa, Tunisia, and Botswana in hot pans as both morbidity and mortality are moving at unprecedented speed.
Attitude, perception and behaviour seem to contribute to the worsening of Covid-19. It is a detestable truth that more people are going to be infected in the near future if some of our actions are allowed to persist. The loathsome virus will surely hit us heavily with many casualties. Our country has just imported
2 million more vaccine doses from China, making it one of the fastest movers in Africa in terms of the inoculation drive.
The third wave is proving the deadliest so far in our country with the month of July alone contributing to at least one-third of all deaths in Zimbabwe.
This is frightening considering that no one knows exactly when the third wave is going to end. The third wave has many active strains of the coronavirus, but the most stubborn of them is the delta variant (formerly Indian) which is characterised by high transmissibility, fast patient deterioration, high oxygen demand plus many casualties. It is a sad development for Africa considering how underdeveloped health infrastructure is.
Measures should surely be put in place in order to urgently flatten the curve. It is sad as all age groups are infected and affected with serious impact on the political, economic and social aspects of humanity.
The sad observation is that the virus seems to slip under our noses and many of the infections occur under our watch as our behaviour determines the extent of the infections. What is needed is mere discipline and consequent compliance with the stipulated public health measures if we are to be at a gratifying position. The end seems far.
It is not easy to lose companions unexpectedly especially to something that one does not have direct control over. Hospitals are already overwhelmed with many patients requiring oxygen because of hypoxia, a condition where oxygen saturation goes below normal. It is sad to note that the virus is now moving like whirlwind, with virtually all towns and cities sending distress calls.
The unfortunate part is that despite all these infections, the general populace is not as serious as they were during the second wave, raising fears that we may be heading for a medical catastrophe.
The diabetics are in big trouble and it is my advice that these patients should not be wholly attended to in their homes. I have noted with concern that diabetics complicate quite easily and allowing their saturation to slid to below 80% is a recipe for disaster.
This third wave does not allow you to keep a diabetic patient in self-isolation because that patient needs proper medical checks and follow-ups.
We have noted, as medical practitioners and foot soldiers, why many people are succumbing to Covid-19 in this third wave. Yes, we are a poor country, but we have managed to stem the virus to a greater extent despite the limited resources in the country. The medical personnel has shown apodictic and tenacious determination in order to save as many lives. The following factors seem rampant and are immensely contributing to a lot of complications:
- Diaspora effect. This is a sad reality that many patients with relatives in the diaspora are reaching late stages of Covid-19 because they are advised to use all sorts of drugs at home. Many of the late presenters who come in respiratory distress have been remotely prescribed some drugs at one time while alone at home. This is proving to be catastrophic. Some of the patients actually make arguments with the medical practitioners who are the Covid-19 fighters merely because a relative in the United Kingdom has prescribed some medication over the phone.
I think Zimbabwe has managed Covid-19 better than the United States of America, Italy, Germany or the United Kingdom. We are a poor country, yes, however, measures put in place, since 2019 have managed to contain the virus. The resilient medical staff in our country has stood tall and astute with plausible results on the ground.
- Continuous self-treatment should not be allowed. Patients with comorbidities should not self-treat themselves as they have a high tendency of sudden deterioration. Diabetes, obesity, heart failure, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, hypertension are all a thorn in the flesh. Many patients whom we see in bad states require oxygen because of respiratory distress syndrome. It is not a good idea that patients self-treat without the advice of medical personnel who should encourage them to have regular oxygen saturation checks with a pulse oximeter. Patients who are presenting with oxygen saturation less than 60% in this third wave, stand very little chances of surviving unless high flow oxygen is given. Why then wait for oxygen saturation to go below 80% while watching at home? The delta variant is merciless and seems intolerant to many common treatment modalities.
- Lifting of public health measures is suicidal. We are alarmed that England is lifting all restrictions in the midst of soaring infections. I am not sure when the entire globe is going to learn concrete lessons about the aggression of Covid-19 in the universe. The consequences are very clear even to a layman and sooner than later, England will reintroduce public health measures if disaster is to be averted.
Why do some people celebrate the lifting of public health measures like masking up, sanitisation or social-distancing which are very good against the diabolic virus that is roaring in the third wave? Who has prophesied that this is the last wave? What if Covid-19 is going to go up to 10 phases? What is needed is a protracted and sustained solution to the pandemic and not the confused piecemeal strategies that seem to experiment with human life.
- Proper medical advice should be sought. Recently, two of my nurse colleagues lost their husbands to Covid-19 and the sad part is that both died at home. It was a sad moment to lose them at home because the wives were doing the treatments at home alone without seeking advice from other practitioners. It is my advice for everyone that they should at least consult to get the best medical advice that saves life. The delta variant is not as simple as what many people might think. It is very virulent for sure and if not contained early, can result in many more casualties. The month of July alone has contributed to one-third of all casualties that Zimbabwe has so far suffered. Covid-19 has no boundaries and visits anyone. The degree of denialism is flabbergasting with such people ending up rejecting Covid-19 testing and subsequent treatment only to meet their fate in a few days to come. When your clinician advises you to get tested, please embrace that with pleasure.
- Respect medical personnel. Many people have ill-conceived beliefs that with the use of the internet, they can now match medical staff in terms of knowledge, which is surely impossible. The internet has provided so many treatment modalities but one should realise that treatments differ based on the specific presentation, age, race or time. It is thus my advice that medical staff be allowed to execute their duties with freedom.
As a routine reminder, please let us not forget about the following:
- That many people are now neglecting public health measures like social distancing, masking up, hand-washing, sanitisation which may breed more misery in a few days to come. It is your duty to promote health and masking up is not to evade police arrest, but for your benefit. We ought to remain alert as a nation, but mere observation of what is happening especially in the high-density suburbs leaves a lot to be desired.
We want to avoid a health care system catastrophe with unbearable numbers of cases and deaths, hence the need to flatten the epidemiological curve while raising the line. If many people are going to be infected at the same time, we have high risk of fatalities as medical staff may fail to cope with pressure.
- This is the time for robust health education. Mass media should play critical roles in information dissemination. Many people are complacent yet the virus is ravaging across the country and it is not good news for rural areas where there is stuttering health delivery. The way people are now behaving in Zimbabwe leaves a lot to be desired with some arguing that there is no more Covid-19 in the country. Hey, the attack is already on us and people should learn to report symptoms and signs early. Self-treatment should never be allowed to go beyond many days if patients are not showing marked improvement. Remember Covid-19 causes septic shock, thrombo-embolism, renal impairment, respiratory distress syndrome and complicated patients would require oxygen or ventilation.