We need to quickly learn how to do things the right way even if it calls for our greatest efforts.
As a nation, we have been battling with COVID-19 since March last year but up to now we are behaving as if the pandemic is new – something that has just sprung up.
With the experience that we now have and the world has, we should be in a position to come up with concrete measures and contain the spread of this deadly virus and there save lives. However, everything has been politicized and ‘corruptised’. Just after the first wave had been contained, our technocrats met with the donor community in October to discuss preparations for the second wave. All their recommendations were discarded for political expediency.
Instead of getting donor support in terms of receiving enough testing kits, personal protective equipment, oxygen, ventilators and PCR testing machines, the Ministry of Health opted to get financing from the treasury which is broke so that it could do its own procurement. As if that was not enough, the old Levy Hospital in Lusaka was closed and put under renovation amidst a pandemic just to give a construction contract to someone. Consequently, today, there isn’t enough bed space, hence some wards at UTH have been turned into isolation centres.
A couple of days ago, the New Maina Soko Hospital was hurriedly opened to meet demand without putting everything required in place, hence the increase in numbers of deaths.
Despite being aware that 80 per cent of the COVID-19 patients have to rely on oxygen, our oxygen purity fall below the required standard set by the World Health Organization (WHO) of minimum 80 per cent. Strange enough, our oxygen purity is between 45 per cent and 50 per cent which is 30 per cent to 35 per cent below WHO recommendations. As if that is not enough, sometimes there is no oxygen at COVID-19 centres leading to loss of lives. Last week, eight people died when there was power failure at Maina Soko Hospital and the oxygen machines went into self protective mode.
And when it comes to adherence to COVID-19 rules, politicians in the ruling party have not set the right example to our people as they do not practice social distancing, sanitize or wash their hands and avoid large clouds. Today, the President himself has gone into a full campaign swing and thereby becoming a possible mass spreader of COVID-19. I am not a scientist but I suspect this is what has increased the COVID-19 cases in rural areas.
Worse still, our front line workers have not been incentivized in terms of risk allowances for putting their lives at risk. Besides, personal protective equipments are not well stocked. At one point last year medical staff were given two surgical masks per week. The situation has not yet improved. Where has the K600 million given to the Disaster Management Unit to curb COVID-19 gone? In a nut shell, the government has shown lack of capacity to deal with this crisis. Our health system has collapsed!