The Sunday News
THE festive season is upon us, and there is need for serious vigilance to curb the spread of the deadly Covid-19 pandemic.
The festive season is usually accompanied by pomp and fanfare, as well as much travelling, which are all not ideal in this era of the pandemic.
In addition, rains are upon us, and people tend to group as they seek temporary shelter especially in the heart of towns and cities, which is another recipe for disaster as the pandemic thrives where there are crowds.
What has further worsened the situation is the emergence of a new Covid-19 variant, Omicron, which has rattled markets and set scientists racing to find out how it differs from other strains.
European countries have also been quick to bar travellers from Southern African countries, after the variant was detected in South Africa and Botswana.
However, of note is that the variant did not originate in the region, although there has been misinformation to that effect.
Nonetheless, the virus has over the past two years presented itself in different shapes due to mutations.
All viruses — including SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19 — evolve over time.
When a virus replicates or makes copies of itself, it sometimes changes a little bit, which is normal for a virus.
These changes are called “mutations”.
A virus with one or more new mutations is referred to as a “variant” of the original virus.
When a virus is widely circulating in a population and causing many infections, the likelihood of the virus mutating increases.
The more opportunities a virus has to spread, the more it replicates — and the more opportunities it has to undergo changes, according to the World Health Organisation.
What has been of concern with the new virus is its potency. Scientists warn that it is more deadly than other variants, and have urged people around the world to strictly adhere to World Health Organisation (WHO) and country health protocols.
“This variant has a large number of mutations, some of which are concerning.
Preliminary evidence suggests an increased risk of reinfection with this variant, as compared to others.”
South African scientist Tulio de Oliveira said in a media briefing held by the South Africa Department of Health recently that the variant contains a “unique constellation” of more than 30 mutations to the spike protein, the component of the virus that binds to cells.
This is significantly more than those of the delta variant.
Zimbabwe has also announced enhanced measures to avoid a fourth wave, and we urge everyone to abide by the health guidelines as they are aimed at saving lives.
President Mnangagwa reiterated that the measures were simply a continuation of health guidelines with more compliance demanded.
WHO guidelines at social gatherings, allowing only the fully vaccinated into restaurants and bars, banning drinking at bottle stores, and full compliance with masking, sanitising, social distancing and other public health measures are to be observed.
“What raises our concern, and adds to our anxieties, is the outbreak of a new strain, Omicron, detected and reported in neighbouring countries only a few days ago.
We face a new, added risk, which compounds the burden we already face and shoulder from known variants we have been grappling with since the outbreak of the pandemic.
It is in view of this new, ominous development that Government has decided on new, enhanced measures to strengthen our national response, and to protect our nation from the impact of a likely fourth wave, which the new variant, Omicron, will most certainly aggravate.”
What we wish to reiterate is that Covid-19 does not have legs.
It is carried by people from one area to another, where it then affects more people, causing a chain reaction leading to sickness and deaths.
What it means is that the power to contain the virus is within us, and we have to exercise caution in whatever we do to ensure that we stop the spread of the virus.