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'Many COVID-19 deaths unreported'

by Staff reporter
09 Jul 2021 at 11:14hrs | Views
ZIMBABWE'S rising COVID-19 cases could be just a tip of the iceberg, with more sick people going untested, with some succumbing to the lethal virus unrecorded, health experts said yesterday.

The southern African nation registered a record 2 264 new COVID-19 infections on Wednesday and 34 deaths as cases continue to soar since the onset of the third wave three weeks ago, characterised by lethal and mutating variants such as the Delta, Alpha, Gamma and Beta, strains of the coronavirus first identified in India, United Kingdom, Brazil and South Africa.

But former Health minister Henry Madzorera told NewsDay that some deaths were likely going uncaptured and implored government to do the right thing and contain the ravaging pandemic.

"I think we have a serious outbreak. Even if the numbers may not be correct, we have a serious outbreak and a serious number of people dying," he said.

"The reported deaths may be less than the real figures as some deaths go uncaptured. We have a problem."

Data from the World Health Organisation (WHO) shows that the Delta variant was in 96 countries and Alpha in 172, while Beta and Gamma have been confirmed in 120 and 72 countries, respectively.

The new cases include fully vaccinated people, calling into question the effectiveness of the current vaccines against the new variants.

"Government is acting as if it doesn't believe the figures that it is giving. They allowed members of the apostolic sect to congregate in their huge numbers in Marange and that is sending suspicion that maybe the data we are getting is false," Madzorera said.

"I think government should disabuse itself of the thought that lockdowns are the only panacea to this pandemic. They should look at all the other measures and employ them."

He added: " ... isolating people who are infected is very important and we have to have community surveillance from time to time, mapping out the epidemic properly and coming up with measures that work and not just inconveniencing people with the lockdown when, in fact, a lockdown is being selectively employed."

Mpilo Central Hospital acting chief executive officer Solwayo Ngwenya on Wednesday said the current figures being given as official by government were just a "tip of the iceberg".
"The figures you are seeing are just the tip of an iceberg," Solwayo said.

"The virus is much wider and we are only having reported cases of those who are testing, there are many others in the community who haven't been tested and carry the virus while infecting others."

COVID-19 national response chief coordinator Agnes Mahomva was not picking calls yesterday, but Medical and Dental Private Practitioners Association of Zimbabwe president Johannes Marisa said data collation was key in determining the extent of the problem and would give people false hope.

"The moment we don't have data, we are going to underreport and misrepresent facts and we are going to assume that everything is in order when everything is out of control," he said.

Despite the rising cases, President Emmerson Mnangagwa yesterday put on a brave face and declared that the country was winning the war against the COVID-19 pandemic.

He made the remarks on Twitter soon after meeting local boxing champion Charles Manyuchi at State House.

"Always ready for the fight. We are winning the battle against COVID-19. We are rebuilding our economy. Zimbabwe is rising again," Mnangagwa tweeted.

His statement comes after WHO on Wednesday warned that the world, especially Africa, was in great danger because COVID-19 variants were winning the war against vaccination.

Zimbabwe is targeting to vaccinate about 10 million people, representing 60% of the population, in order to achieve herd immunity.

But Community Working Group on Health executive director Itai Rusike said Zimbabwe was in a crisis as shown by massive shortage of hospital beds and liquid oxygen.

"The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic in Zimbabwe remains formidable due to the rising cases, surge in hospitalization and deaths. This has resulted in most of our hospitals running out of beds and facing acute liquid oxygen," Rusike said.

"President Mnangagwa has a personal responsibility to make sure that vaccines are always readily available by making sure that there is timeous allocation of adequate domestic resources for procurement of vaccines and avoiding the stock-outs that the country has been experiencing."

He added: "It seems like the vaccine supplies have not been matching up with the high demand of people willing to take up the jab.

"As a result, a lot of people have been struggling to access the vaccines from within their communities as the limited available vaccines have only been accessible at central hospitals, thereby creating logistical challenges for people living in rural areas without central hospitals.

"There is a need for the country to increase access to COVID-19 testing services as a lot of people may be moving around further spreading the virus as they are not aware of their status."

Source - newsday