July has seen a spike in coronavirus cases which increased from 985 on Sunday to 1034 cases yesterday with one death recorded in the Midlands province according to statistics released by the Ministry of Health and Child Care.
Total deaths are now at 19.
The caseload figure has thus breached the 1000 mark since the first reported cases on March 20.
The pace of the pandemic accelerated in July, driven mainly by returnees from South Africa and rising local transmissions as more people come out of the lockdown and disregard social distancing and wearing of face masks.
With President Emmerson Mnangagwa expected to review the lockdown in view of the spike in the covid-19 cases, concern has been raised over the re-opening of bars and the dropping of guard by most Zimbabweans.
Patrons in bars in Zvishavane were recently observed to be ignoring social distance and wearing of face masks.
In the US the premature reopening of restaurants and bars led to step spikes in cases in states such as Florida, Texas and Arizona which are facing the worst of the crisis.
According to health officials, dozens of hospitals in Florida have no intensive care unit beds left after being overwhelmed by covid-19 patients.
Zimbabwe needs to keep its guard to avoid hurtling towards the Florida situation. We have already seen recklessness by the public manifesting as a defiance of the stay at home regulation if you are not going to work.
In search of livelihoods or just unable to stay at home, droves of people are moving around the suburbs and into city centres.
Smaller shops have also begun ignoring screening and sanitising measures. When the temperature screening and sanitising at entry points of shops was introduced, the measures were implemented in the letter and spirit of stopping covid-19.
What we have seen now is a regression where only the large supermarkets still screen and sanitise while smaller shops in fact exploit the absence of the regulations in their shops as a marketing tool to entice more customers.
The shops also don’t care whether you have a mask and how you wear it if you have it. This has seen many people literally dropping their guard by lowering their masks to leave the nose and chin exposed while the uncontrolled numbers have led to the ignoring of social distance.
In public places most people also move with lowered masks while a recent visit to Mberengwa rural area indicated the rural folk don’t even have the masks.
South Africa’s health minister has indicated that the hope of combating covid-19 lies in behaviour change.
Covid-19 is the new normal and scientists don’t yet fully understand the virus. It is bound to be with us for some time before a vaccine is found.What is worrying is the observable inertia by the public, an unwillingness to change behaviour and act safe.
In physics the inertia is changed by an external force, but in psychology it is a cognitive understanding of the benefits of changing one’s behaviour.
Messaging to that effect help but what is gathered currently is that most people adopt the seeing is believing approach.
As long as they don’t see funeral hearses with coronavirus victims, they are apt to take the pandemic just as an ailment that does not kill.
This approach is coupled with the desperation to secure livelihoods represented in the statement, ‘kurisiri kufandekupi’, hermeneutically rendered to ‘ all is death’ , in this context implying that whether one stays at home without sustenance or moves around to make a living they can meet death as the same fate.
But this exactly is the point we lose the battle. Donald Trump lost the battle by deploying a similar mindset.
He campaigned and agitated for states to lift lockdowns when it was too early. Now America has over 3 million cases and over 135 000 deaths, the highest figures in the world.
Caseload spike have been recorded in countries that have eased up restrictions, and not taken the wearing of masks seriously.
The three countries at the top of the pandemic chart – the United States, Brazil and the UK – are those in which people still resist wearing masks.
Mask wearing has, up until last week, largely been shunned and even ridiculed by the leaders of the worst-hit countries – the US and Brazil.
Trump had refused to wear a mask in public for months until a visit to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center last Saturday.
It is not too late for Zimbabwe to avoid the further steepening of the caseload curve. The message must still harp of consistent and proper wearing of face masks in public and maintaining of social distance.
Masks are critical at a time the WHO has acknowledged the airborne transmission of the pandemic.
Observations from Taiwan, South Korea and China, all places with widespread mask use, have seen greater success in preventing major outbreaks or reigning them in once they begin.
New research also shows that masks can help cut down on one of the main drivers of cases: ‘silent spreaders,’ or people who are asymptomatic or presymptomatic.
Authorities must tighten covid-19 regulations and ensure full compliance by the public.
The roadblocks have over the weeks reduced in number and in some places they now simple denote nothing more than a transport bottleneck.
The initial stringent and thorough approach must be reapplied while communicators have a big challenge to motivate behaviour change and ensure communities do not relax measures meant to stop the spread of covid-19.
It should be within each and every one of us to be the change we want. Lets all start by wearing our masks in public, sanitising and maintain social distance.