​Progress in COVID fighting brings joy to Africa

2020-09-28 09:35:45
​Progress in COVID fighting brings joy to Africa

With Zimbabwe’s coronavirus infections on the decline, schools are reopening, along with churches, bars, restaurants, airports and tourist attractions. Strict lockdowns designed to curb the disease are being replaced by a return to relatively normal life.

The threat has eased so much that many people see no need to be cautious. With his face mask stuffed into his pocket, Omega Chibanda said he’s not worried about COVID-19.

“We used to fear coronavirus, not anymore,” the 16-year-old said in the crowded Chitungwiza town on the outskirts of the capital, Harare. “That’s why I’m not even wearing a mask.”

As the global death toll from COVID-19 approaches 1 million, Zimbabwe and several other African countries have not experienced the widespread surges and many deaths that were predicted. That has invited complacency.

“It’s all relaxed now,” Chibanda said.

Earlier this month, Zimbabwe went a week without recording any deaths from coronavirus, and new infections and deaths have declined, as in South Africa and Kenya.

Africa’s surge has been leveling off, with its 1.4 million confirmed cases increasing relatively slowly. Antibody testing is expected to show many more infections, but most cases are asymptomatic. Just over 35,000 deaths have been confirmed on the continent of 1.3 billion people.

But the improving figures and the start of the searing heat of the Southern Hemisphere’s summer could undermine efforts to beat back the virus even further, said community health worker Rosemary Rambire.

She leaves home early in the morning and returns in the evening after going door to door calling “the gospel is here” and gathering families for quick awareness sessions.

“Our job is now harder to do because people are no longer afraid,” Rambire said. “Some even tell us that it has not killed anyone they know. Most of them say the sun kills COVID-19 so they have no reason to worry.”

Some think they are immune once they eat garlic, ginger and onions, she said.

In her 14 years on the job and through multiple disease outbreaks, COVID-19 has been the most difficult to get people to take preventive measures, she said.

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