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Covid-19: 'The worst still to come'

by Staff reporter
28 Jun 2020 at 07:30hrs | Views
DR Solwayo Ngwenya, a veteran medical practitioner is a worried man. He believes there seems to be lack of seriousness in flattening the coronavirus curve by the ordinary citizens and officials to an extent.

Dr Ngwenya, who is the acting Chief Executive Officer for Mpilo Central Hospital, has for the past three months plus, carried out a spirited campaign on social media warning those who care to listen about the severity of this novel virus and the seriousness it should be treated with.

He however, says it has fallen on deaf ears, mostly.

"What drove me is my desire to save a lot of lives because the coronavirus is a very dangerous virus and people are not aware of these dangers. My personal fear is founded on the fact that my father survived the great influenza virus of 1918, so when I was growing up, he taught me to respect viruses. So now 100 years later we are struggling with a virus and I see the virus is different from other viruses we have seen and people seem not aware of its dangers, this is why I started my campaign," he said.

On how different coronavirus is from other viruses, he said; "First, it is similar to a common cold (flu) which everyone almost gets every cold season and this one appears to have moved from animals to humans so when it gets to humans it causes serious harm to the human body as it is meant for animals.

"Other flu viruses, you acquire them by breathing in air that an infected person has breathed out. But this virus is different, you can get the virus via the eyes and not only the nose, it can get in via your mouth. So technically if you go to a restaurant and you eat with utensils that are contaminated you can get it. The virus also seems to survive on hard surfaces so it is different which means if someone with the virus coughs and leaves it on a hard surface in a bus or on a chair, it means for nine days the virus is going to be infecting people," said Dr Ngwenya.

How deadly is the virus?

He explained how deadly the virus is saying it was dangerous in that once it gets to a population, it changes its form or mutates and goes mainly for the lungs and kidneys. He said some people carry it without even knowing it and might suddenly just collapse and die especially in this cold season.

Zimbabwe is experiencing an increase in Covid-19 positive cases and Mr Ngwenya has this to say; "The virus starts with a few cases slowly goes up, it then infects people in thousands, in Zimbabwe now there are escalating numbers. There is what we call a rate of reproduction or rate of infection (R) of a virus, it is low, like during the initial lockdown, R was zero, one person may not infect the next person, but when R goes to about three, it means one person can infect three people on average so we saw from published figures that there were 20 local cases of transmission (Wednesday Covid-19 update) those people may have infected three others recurring and the number keeps growing. Once figures get to a certain point then the next stage is that we are going to see mass deaths.

"This is why my major worry is that the population get conscientised which I have done with a passion.
The danger is just like the 1918 flu that started from South Africa going north ravaging the people all over. Look at South Africa now they have 80 000 plus cases and reporting deaths every day. We are also likely going to face the same scenario here in about two months' time, this is why I campaigned unsuccessfully though that we must lock down because without a complete lockdown, this R number is about three, so soon we will have the virus all over," he warned.

Way forward

On what the country can do now Dr Ngwenya suggested a more serious lockdown.

"The best thing is to lock down seriously, China has started to lock down again because the Chinese understand the seriousness of this disease and if you look at it, they have done it very well, they only had about 4 000 deaths despite their huge population of billions. Then you look at countries that did the opposite of China, they have thousands of deaths so the Chinese way is to recognise the seriousness of the disease, make sure you separate cases in hospitals making sure you don't bring patients to clean hospitals then you lock down so that R is kept below zero," said Mr Ngwenya.

The challenge

"Now looking at the set regulations that people are breaking every day, R is becoming three and that is when the virus becomes very dangerous. When the Government announced a lockdown people complained about the economy, but where we are now it's the economy versus the people's lives and the people appear to be more worried about the economy, so I would urge the authorities to reconsider and bring in a strict lockdown back, make it a bit tighter because now it is very loose.

"Without a proper lockdown, we are going to be inundated with many deaths and I do not want to lie to you, the virus kills and it's an efficient killer. The people who do undertaking will be inundated with work and will not cope. In places like America they even brought refrigerated trucks to park outside hospitals because mortuaries were overflowing.
"So, I urge the Government to consider seriously the amount of deaths that will come," he pleaded.

On schools reopening

"I had suggested we lock down until August, but Government is talking about reopening of schools at the end of July for some classes. The danger is children might take the virus from school and bring it home and the virus kills more people of my age, 50 years going up are going to be wiped out, diabetic, blood pressure, asthmatic, people on antiretrovirals, and cancer patients are going to be affected badly. They will not cope," he lamented.

Are we testing enough?

"Once we lock down again we should import more test kits and test en masse, because now we are not doing enough tests because we do not even know who has the virus or not and that is very dangerous because those are the people who will start dropping dead."

He said once the virus enters the body it starts killing itself. The soldiers in the body come in a massive storm trying to kill the virus and, in the process, overdoes it. So immediately the blood pressure will drop and one dies, that is the major problem.

"The disease is characterised by dying alone and you are buried within 24 hours," he said.

Can our system cope?

"The system may not cope at all, we will have many people coming in looking for oxygen, the oxygen may run out, we may run out of beds and people will be lying in tents outside the hospital, some will be brought in dead and the grave diggers and undertakers will not cope. In our case, that is why I was warning Africans, in the US their hospitals are magnificent and here we do not have that luxury, the situation is different. We will be wiped out.

He added that the country had returnees who came through undesignated entry points thereby evading the procedures and contributing to multiplication of the virus.

"My point is therefore that Africa should lock down everyone. If you look at our first lockdown, it was very successful, people stayed at home and the disease was under control. Government must have a strict lockdown regime and save the people. If businesses collapse and people remain alive, we can still rebuild and gain what we had before. Coronavirus needs hard decisions, without these it's a challenge."

Words of encouragement

"I encourage those people that have nothing to do in town to sit at home especially the elderly, they are going to be wiped out. I see them queuing for their pensions and it is sad indeed. I insist that they sit at home and let the cold season pass," he said.

Dr Ngwenya said the virus may last for a year or more and has the ability to come back like it did in China, adding that he would continue advising people through the media.

Source - Sunday News