WHILE people across the globe are being advised to follow World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines on Covid-19 that health authorities say are necessary to keep the coronavirus from spreading, plenty of them are not as they still gather in crowds ignoring those regulations aimed at curbing the spread of the disease.
A survey carried out by B-Metro in many of Bulawayo’s suburbs revealed that people continue to defy lockdown regulations and Covid-19 guidelines like social distancing by walking too close to each other without face masks and meeting over drinks with some going so far in their defiance as to throw “coronavirus parties”.
With local transmissions now constituting 90 percent of new cases, in separate interviews residents said there was a need in these moments of uncertainty to police our own behaviour.
Aleck Moyo (63) from Cowdray Park which is now regarded as one of Bulawayo’s Covid-19 hotspot suburbs rebuked residents who continue gathering in crowds and ignoring regulations aimed at curbing the spread of the disease.
“People should not be negligent by continuing gathering in crowds where they will be ignoring regulations aimed at curbing the spread of the disease. While avoiding crowds there is also a need to maintain personal hygiene, wear masks, use sanitizers, remain in the house as much as possible,” he said.
As of late last week, Cowdray Park, Emganwini, Nkulumane and Magwegwe West had the highest number of Covid-19 cases in the city.
Another resident Sphiwe Khupe (48) from Nketa said while people were coming to a stage where living with the virus was a must, they should however, not be negligent.
“As we are coming to a stage where living with the virus is a must at the same time people need not be negligent. People should follow the recommendations to keep a safe distance from others and avoid gathering spaces,” said Ms Khupe.
In an interview with our sister paper, Chronicle, Luveve Constituency MP Stella Ndlovu, whose area covers Cowdray Park, said she believed people were violating lockdown measures due to the need to eke a living.
She encouraged those without a reason for going out to stay at home as there were more chances of contracting Covid-19 outdoors.
“But I also believe that we are not conducting comprehensive Covid-19 testing as a country and city. If we do extensive mass testing it might emerge that there are more positive patients even in suburbs that have not been identified as hotspots,” she said.
Acting Bulawayo provincial medical director Dr Welcome Mlilo also warned that with the prevailing cases, everyone in the city should be considered a Covid-19 threat even those who might have tested negative as their chances of contracting the virus remain high.
He said lockdown fatigue may be behind the increase in Covid-19 cases in the city.
“There are a number of factors that we can attribute to the increase in the number of recorded cases. Certainly, we are witnessing what may be called ‘lockdown fatigue’, with residents no longer observing lockdown laws and the infection, prevention and control measures articulated by the Ministry of Health. Zimbabwe as well doesn’t exist in a vacuum. The number of cases recorded across the border has remained high,” he said.
“Factor in that we are now in peak winter season, and we did expect to see the peak number of cases sometime in winter. These are but some of the contributing factors to the recent surge in number of cases in Bulawayo. But it is also testament to the quality of contact tracing efforts done by the Bulawayo health services department. Most of our cases are asymptomatic and yet we are able to detect them.”
Dr Mlilo said the message to people remained the same: treat everyone as a potential Covid-19 case. He said over 80 percent of cases were asymptomatic or show mild symptoms.
“So, approach everyone as a possible source of Covid-19 infection. The government measures in place will not protect us without the community buy-in.
“Let’s all take personal responsibility for ourselves and the next person. Wear a well-fitting mask in public spaces, practise social distancing at every opportunity and let’s practise good hygiene, wash and iron our masks, wash our hands. These are simple yet effective measures that stop the transmission of the virus,” said Dr Mlilo.