By RUMBIDZAI NGWENYA

THE government has urged school authorities to seriously monitor learners to ensure that Covid-19 safety measures were followed in schools amid fears of a fifth wave of the pandemic.

This comes as the government has announced that 12 to 15-year-olds were now exposed to infections amid a growing increase in new Covid-19 infections in the country in the last few weeks.

In an interview with the Daily News on Sunday yesterday, Health and Childcare deputy minister John Mangwiro warned that the nation was not out of danger of the pandemic yet.

“The law says everyone, learners not exempted, must mask up. The danger of learners not masking up is that they can be super spreaders both at school and at home, which is a very dangerous situation to the nation.

“We request headmasters and teachers to continue to encourage learners to mask up because the danger is not yet over,” Mangwiro said.

At the same time, national Covid-19 coordinator in President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s office, Agnes Mahomva also urged the ministry of Primary and Secondary Education to scale-up monitoring and implementation of Covid-19 protocols in schools.

“The ministry of Education has inspectors to monitor the situation in schools and they should enforce what we, at the Cabinet level, put out as law.

“But on the high level, we continue to encourage everyone, including learners, to mask up, We are pushing, coordinating and preparing for the big blitz on vaccination where we are now including the 12 to 15-year-olds as was announced by the Cabinet,” Mahomva told the Daily News on Sunday yesterday.

Health experts who spoke to the Daily News on Sunday also challenged the government to tighten Covid-19 monitoring strategies in schools amid observations that learners were roaming around schools without masking up or social distancing, “as if Covid-19 never existed”.

They expressed fears that the recently announced vaccination of 12 to 15-year–olds would not work if the complacency in schools continues.

President of the Medical and Dental Practitioners Council of Zimbabwe Johannes Marisa warned that under the circumstances, a fifth wave was a real possibility.

“The problem that we have is that the relevant authorities are not doing everything that is needed to fight Covid-19, they are doing part of it. The fight against Covid-19 involves masking up, sanitising, social distancing and of course vaccination.

“So we cannot be vaccinating 12 to 15-year-olds and at the same time not monitoring if schools are adhering to the Covid-19 protocols. If then that attitude doesn’t change then we are not going anywhere as far as fighting Covid-19 is concerned.

“In fact we should expect learners to be the agents of the fifth wave,” Marisa said.

Zimbabwe Nurses Association (Zina) president  Enock Dongo also feared that authorities were  not doing enough in ensuring that schools adhered to Covid-19 regulations.

“Having learners not masking up is a major reason for concern at this point in time. As much as we applaud the government for extending vaccination to the 12 to 15-year-olds as it was long overdue, the Primary and Secondary Education ministry should now ensure that there is adherence to Covid-19 protocols in schools as a matter of urgency.

“When learners do not mask up or practice social distancing, then the country is definitely sitting on a time bomb,” Dongo said.