By RUMBIDZAI NGWENYA
HEALTH experts are calling on Zimbabwean authorities to scrap the mandatory wearing of face masks and other Covid restrictions still in place following a massive decline in new pandemic infections and deaths.
Speaking to the Daily News On Sunday at the weekend, the experts said the declining effects of the pandemic in the country justified the cancellation of all the Covid measures still in place, to allow life to get back to normal and to boost the economy further.
This comes after authorities recently lifted most of the Covid-19 restrictions in force, including curfews and those on public gatherings and business operating times, among others.
It also comes as the country has been recording less than 20 new cases a day, despite it the current cold winter season when it was expected that Zimbabwe would be hit by a new Covid wave.
“It’s time we should consider scrapping the mandatory wearing of face masks, maybe unless and only if it is in congested areas.
“We can actually appreciate that the gravity of the Covid-19 pandemic has decreased. We have been recording low cases and people are no longer worried about it anymore.
“Besides, many people have actually never worn them (masks) properly, and some were not even putting them on.
“So, the government should consider that it may be time to go back to normal life and understand that the disease will from now on be endemic,” the president of the Medical and Dental Private Practitioners Association (MDPPA), Joannes Marisa, said.
On his part, the secretary of the Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights, Norman Matara, also said the Covid-19 situation in the country showed that Zimbabwe had successfully navigated the “murky waters” that was the pandemic.
In that light, he added, it no longer made sense to keep the mandatory wearing of face masks in effect in the country.
“As a country, we have done exceptionally well when it comes to the fight against Covid-19. When we expected the worst, the country continued to record low cases.
“However good hygiene and sanitising are the things people should live with, because they assist in terms of reducing the spread of other diseases like cholera.
“I don’t see masks still serving the purpose they were meant to serve. Walk around the city now and you will see that people no longer wear masks, but just place them on their chins in fear of getting in trouble with law enforcers.
“So to make it mandatory for people to wear masks is just theoretical, but far away from being practical,” Matara observed.
On the other hand, the president of the Zimbabwe Nurses Association, Enock Dongo, said although it was possible that face masks were no longer necessary, it was still important for people to get fully vaccinated against Covid-19.
“It is possible that masks are no longer necessary at this point, but we are not certain that the low cases we are seeing are because we no longer have Covid-19.
“It could just be that the variant we have now is less deadly. People could still be getting sick and not even knowing that they have Covid because the symptoms would be mild.
“So, I would say it is good to stop wearing masks when we have more of our people vaccinated with all jabs.
“Right now, the countries that are dropping face masks are those that have the majority of their population vaccinated, but that is not the case for Zimbabwe.
“Our people have become reluctant to get vaccinated, which is very dangerous,” Dongo said.
This comes as neighbouring South Africa and other countries in Sadc and Europe have since discarded the mandatory wearing of masks following a significant decline in cases there.
Efforts to get a comment from the government at the weekend were unsuccessful, with the Covid-19 national co-ordinator in the President’s office, Agnes Mahomva, said to be away.
But Mahomva recently enthused that the country had won its fight against Covid-19 despite previous fears of the imminent onset of a fifth wave.
Speaking to the Daily News, she said the country had brought the pandemic under control, a success it owed to the measures that the government had put in place to curb the spread of the respiratory disease.
“We are very happy and confident that the measures that we have implemented and which we continue to implement are definitely contributing to this fantastic result.
“But as I always say, as long as we have new cases, whether it is just two, the chances of having more and the disease spreading remains.
“So, until we have zero cases, we never lose our guard. We continue to urge people to respect the measures in place, but most importantly to get vaccinated.
“I’m sure by now you can agree with me that science works and we are very confident that as long as we continue to work with science we can save a lot of lives,” Mahomva said then.
In recent weeks, the country has been recording less than 20 new cases a day. And as of last Thursday, there were only 13 cases of hospitalisations.
More than 6 368 944 (about 57 percent of the targeted national people) have so far received their first dose of Covid-19 jabs, while 4 733 477 (about 42 percent) have received their second vaccines — and 937 898 (about 8,3 percent) have received their third shots. – Daily News