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Progress brings virus complacency in parts of Africa

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(26 Sep 2020) As the global death toll from COVID-19 fast approaches one million, Zimbabwe and several other African countries have not experienced the widespread surges and high numbers of deaths that were predicted.
Many have become complacent about the threat posed by the coronavirus, which health experts say could allow the disease to become a more serious problem in the coming months.
Under strong economic and political pressure, Zimbabwe's government lifted the strict lockdown imposed to curb the spread of the virus, so schools, churches, bars, restaurants, airports, and tourist attractions were allowed to reopen.
Earlier this month, Zimbabwe recorded no deaths from coronavirus for a whole week.
In Chitungwiza, a sprawling working-class area on the southern edge of the capital Harare, people no longer wear masks at markets, funerals or other public events.
"We used to be afraid especially during the first 21 days of lockdown, but now we are not scared of it,' 'said 16-year-old Omega Chibanda, with his face mask stuffed into his pocket.
"That's why I am not wearing a mask, there is no coronavirus."
As Zimbabwe's new cases have declined, many say they don't see the need to remain cautious.
Rosemary Rambire is a community worker in Chitungwiza.
She leaves home every morning and goes door to door to spread awareness among families of the danger of the coronavirus.
"Our job is now harder to do because people are no longer afraid," said Rambire.
"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."
In her 14 years as a community health promoter through multiple disease outbreaks, COVID-19 has been the most difficult to get people to take preventive measures, she said.
Dr Agnes Mahomva, the chief COVID-19 response coordinator in Zimbabwe said that the government will not hesitate to put back in place the restrictive measures if the rules are not followed.
Many African countries have been ending the strict lockdowns and curfews in recent weeks to boost economies battered by the virus outbreak and, in some cases, to ease the local political pressure.
However, the lack of testing in the continent makes it really difficult to assess the real number of positive coronavirus cases.

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