NEWS that two schools have shut down in Matabeleland North province due to an upward spike in COVID-19 cases is definitely unwelcome news and a serious cause for concern, moreso when Zimbabwe has hardly reached half of the number of vaccinated people required to achieve herd immunity.
Government tells us that so far 6,5 million people have received their first COVID-19 vaccine dose, while 4,8 million have been fully vaccinated, a far cry from the country’s target to protect 60% (10 million) of the population, including children, from the disease.
Authorities also tell us that a total of 252 new cases of the respiratory disease were recorded last week, compared to 202 the previous week and out of the 252 new cases, 130 and 33 cases were from Matabeleland North’s Fatima and George Silundika secondary schools, respectively.
The country’s cumulative COVID-19 cases stood at 257 409 as at September 27, 2022, with 251 281 recoveries and 5 602 deaths.
That two schools have been shut down when everyone thought the disease was waning in Zimbabwe and across the globe, is more than disturbing, especially coming a month after government relaxed COVID-19 restrictions.
While government specifically indicated that masks were no longer mandatory for those who have been fully-vaccinated when it relaxed the restrictions, everyone has dumped the masks and no one seems to view the disease as a major threat.
In fact, the number of people who have been fully-vaccinated since the programme started nearly three years ago clearly shows that the majority of the country’s nationals could not care less and this simply means that it will take forever for the country to achieve herd immunity.
This is a very scary prospect for a nation in a global village whose other nations have long reached and surpassed their herd immunity targets. Zimbabwe, which probably has an uncharacteristically large number of people who do not believe in vaccinations, cannot afford to continue wallowing in this depth of backwardness to the point of its nationals having the liberty to be so averse to issues of human development.
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The United Nations Sustainable Development Goal number 3 on good health and wellbeing points out that: “Ensuring healthy lives and promoting well-being at all ages is essential to sustainable development. Currently, the world is facing a global health crisis unlike any other — COVID-19 (has spread) human suffering, destabilising the global economy and upending the lives of billions of people around the globe.”
Yet here we are as Zimbabwe still entertaining many among us who refuse to be vaccinated and risk the lives of millions of the country’s future human capital and even sanction their death. COVID-19 killed thousands and measles is currently killing hundreds, mainly because of these people who are refusing to be vaccinated.
And yet government appears, for political expediency, not keen on bringing on board this group of people, who are mainly from the apostolic faith persuasion. In the end it then comes as no surprise that the country continues to record rising new COVID-19 infections.
Zimbabwe cannot, however, afford to casually react to matters of health because they speak to the core of its overall development.