By MUGOVE TAFIRENYIKA

The latest consignment of vaccines delivered to Zimbabwe at the weekend.

ZIMBABWE’S health workers are taking a beating from Covid-19, with authorities revealing that about 5 000 of them — including doctors and nurses — had contracted the virulent respiratory disease, while 24 others had succumbed to the pandemic so far.

The executive chairperson of the Health Services Board (HSB), Paulinus Sikhosana, said the affected healthcare workers represented about 11 percent of Zimbabwe’s public sector health staff corps.

“As at July 16, 2021 at least 4 970 health workers — about 11 percent of the public health workforce — had been infected by the novel coronavirus.

“Among these infected members, it was noted that 2 629 claims had been approved for payment, out of which 1 798 claimants had been paid while 831 claims had been approved but are still to be paid and 24 members had, unfortunately, died of Covid-19,” he told Daily News.

This comes as the government has set aside an insurance fund which pays out between US$650 and US$1 000 at the prevailing auction foreign currency rate, to every frontline health worker who contracts Covid-19 while in the line of duty.

But authorities have since added that they will now only compensate those who are vaccinated, prompting most health workers and other public sector workers to heed the vaccination call.

Until recently, at least 20 percent of the entire public sector frontline workforce had not been inoculated against the pandemic due to religious, health and other personal reasons.

All this also comes as most hospitals are now failing to cope with the numbers of people needing beds for Covid-19 treatment — with Harare among the hardest hit in the country.

“Most hospitals are now full with Covid-19 patients, especially in Harare, and the number of new infections that we are handling has put a serious strain on facilities.

“As we keep getting more cases, the health system is getting stretched even more. Now we also have the challenge of quite a number of healthcare workers who have been infected.

“So, the number of staff available is incapable of handling the situation,” a worried secretary general of the Senior Hospital Doctors Association (SHDA), Aaron Musara, told the Daily News’s sister paper, the Daily News On Sunday at the weekend.

“The official number of confirmed national cases does not represent what is actually on the ground because there are a lot of undiagnosed cases in the communities.

“The disease is spreading a lot and one of the biggest challenges is that of fatigue among citizens in terms of following the necessary prevention protocols.

“So, we expect the figures to continue rising. We, therefore, need to be relentless in terms of educating citizens never to get tired because lives are being lost,” Musara further told the Daily News On Sunday.

At the same time, the national Covid-19 chief coordinator in President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s office, Agnes Mahomva, said it was likely that hospitals were feeling the pressure of the soaring numbers of people infected by the lethal coronavirus.

“It is indeed true that some hospitals…might be stressed now but, it is the Ministry of Health that should be able to say if we have reached a point where we need to increase the facilities and ensure that people don’t continue to refer patients to one facility which might be full.

“They should be able to also say what the situation is like throughout the country,” Mahomva told the Daily News on Sunday.

All this also comes as both the Zimbabwe Association of Funeral Assurers (Zafa) and individual funeral assurance companies have confirmed that the demand for funeral services has shot up worryingly due to the coronavirus pandemic.

It also comes as authorities have embarked on an aggressive vaccination programme, in a bid to contain Covid-19 which is threatening to spiral out of control. Zimbabwe is aiming to vaccinate about 10 million people by the end of December this year to achieve much-needed herd immunity.

At the weekend, Zimbabwe received a further one million Covid jabs from China.

Speaking during the arrival of these vaccines in the country on Sunday, Finance minister Mthuli Ncube, said the vaccination programme was bearing fruit.

Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube received the vaccines from China at the weekend.

“We are receiving one million vaccines from Sinovac and we are also going to receive … three million syringes which are coming later on Friday.

“I am happy to say that our programme of buying vaccines is going very well and we are also expecting another 1,5 million vaccines later this week by Thursday or Friday.

“With these one million vaccines that we have received today (Sunday), it means that we have about 5,5 million vaccines that we have received so far,” Ncube said.

“Going forward, we have paid for another 6,5 million vaccines which will then take us to 12 million vaccines.

“So, our vaccination programme is going very well … and we feel that we are on our way towards achieving that target of herd immunity which we need to open the economy,” he added.

Speaking at the same event, the deputy minister of Health, John Mangwiro, urged all citizens to get vaccinated, adding that even if the country reached herd immunity, it would not protect unvaccinated citizens from the virulent disease.

“The vaccination process is no longer being undertaken by government institutions only, council clinics are also vaccinating. Police stations are now also acting as vaccination centres and in remote areas we have trucks giving access to the vaccination process to make sure everyone gets vaccinated.

“In our drive to reach herd immunity, we continue to urge people to have community immunity because the country might reach herd immunity, but if your community is not vaccinated it becomes dangerous for that community,” Mangwiro said. – Daily News