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Zimbabweans Panic Amid COVID Surge Reports

FILE - A masked vendor reads a newspaper in Harare, Jan,5, 2021. At the time, Zimbabwe began a 30-day lockdown to rein in a spike in COVID-19 infections. On Feb. 12, 2021, the government said a free COVID-19 vaccination program would begin "immediately."

Reported increase in Coronavirus related deaths by Zimbabwe’s health ministry has left citizens of the Southern African nation in a state of panic. Latest Ministry statistics report the highest daily surge to be 28 deaths on January 7.

As the number of Covid-19 cases and deaths in Zimbabwe surge from the Omicron variant, government critics are slamming Harare, asserting government officials put out misleading reports about it being highly transmissible but not as deadly.

The World Health Organization has issued alerts that Omicron is as deadly as previous variants.

Zimbabweans say their living situation makes strong Covid-19 suppression measures difficult.

Sanele Moyo, a 40-year-old mother recently contracted the virus despite being fully vaccinated. She says daily life's situations make anti-Covid-19 measures difficult.

"The economy is harsh," she says, "people cannot afford even to take precautions like social distancing because of the necessities to stay alive and survive under the harsh economy." Moyo says because of this, the government's preventative measures can't be held to.

But Dr. Agnes Mahomva, Chief Co-Ordinator of Zimbabwe’s COVID-19 Taskforce, urges citizens to refrain from panicking. She lists a series of COVID-19 preventative programs, among them a two-week extension of the national lockdown, and a program to inoculate booster COVID shots.

But Moyo says Zimbabwe's health infrastructure isn't capable of robustly addressing the challenges of Covid-19.

“Many of these deaths are not necessary," she says, adding "some of them are because of poor health delivery system. Zimbabweans are dying and something as simple as getting to a hospital or oxygen is not there and discouraging people from going to hospital.”

In light of conditions, health-focused Zimbabwean NGO The Community Working Group on Health urges citizens to take personal responsibility in curbing the spread of COVID-19 in Zimbabwe.

FILE - Itai Rusike, executive director of the nonprofit Community Working Group on Health in Zimbabwe. (Columbus Mavhunga/VOA)
FILE - Itai Rusike, executive director of the nonprofit Community Working Group on Health in Zimbabwe. (Columbus Mavhunga/VOA)

Executive Director Itai Rusike says “COVID-19 is not just the responsibility of the health sector but the responsibility of us as individuals, the community."

Rusike adds, “we need to identify vaccine champions who can be traditional and religious leaders to help communities.”