LOCAL health experts have warned of a brewing fifth wave of COVID-19 following a spike in new cases in schools since the beginning of the first term nearly two weeks ago.
According to latest statistics from the Health and Child Care ministry, schools in Matabeleland North and Masvingo provinces contributed 131 of the 350 new COVID-19 cases recorded in the country on Wednesday this week.
Mpilo Central Hospital acting chief executive officer Solwayo Ngwenya warned against complacency, saying the fifth wave could be more catastrophic than the previous waves.
“School are always super spreaders of the pandemic,” Ngwenya said. “The Omicron variant was said to be mild, but highly transmissible. Unfortunately, Omicron has evolved to have three more variants which are BA1 and BA2 and yesterday they found another mutation of the BA2 variant.
“The BA2 is the one that has taken hold throughout the country. The variant that is highly transmissible. Its mutation has high mortality. So we are now going to face the fifth wave and the fifth wave has just started. The moment the authorities announced that the fourth wave had subsided, the fifth wave started brewing.
“Official data is showing that schools are under siege. The fifth wave will probably be more catastrophic than the fourth wave. There would be widespread infections in a very short time not only in Zimbabwe but throughout the globe. But the situation is being faced by a very complacent population, which is very disastrous.”
Government on Tuesday further relaxed COVID-19 restrictions and reopened the country’s borders for public travel following a drop in new infections in the past few weeks.
Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) president Takavafira Zhou blamed government for the latest outbreak due to its failure to ensure that pupils were tested prior to the reopening of schools.
“One of our key variables for successful opening of schools has been our call for government prioritisation of health and safety of teachers, pupils and ancillary staff,” he said.
Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) president Takavafira Zhou
“That the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education ordered the conglomeration of teachers, pupils and ancillary staff without any testing has already led to a quantum leap of COVID-19 cases in schools over the past two days, with more than 132 cases reported in primary schools in Masvingo and Matabeleland. COVID-19 pandemic is real just as the incapacitation of teachers. As PTUZ leaders, we cherish genuine feedback that comes from flag bearers of our incapacitation struggle in all the provinces. We also continue to liaise with our colleagues in Fozeu [Federation of Zimbabwe Educators Union] and the global community in order to find the best way forward.”
Medical and Dental Private Practitioners of Zimbabwe president Johannes Marisa said the rise in cases could be attributed to the increased COVID-19 testing facilities.
“It is only that there was a limited testing capacity which has now improved. When we have more testing facilities then we have more cases. However, due to the continued mutation of the variants, we can’t rule out the possibility of the fifth wave of the pandemic very soon,” Marisa said.
On Thursday, Zimbabwe recorded 385 new cases, pushing the cumulative figure to 232 598, while active cases were 2 892.