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The Coronavirus Diaries: Preparing for the Vaccine and a Third Wave

The Coronavirus Diaries: Preparing for the Vaccine and a Third Wave

Wednesday March 24 2021

An update from Keith and Ida Waddell, Church of Scotland mission partners with the United Church of Zambia (UCZ)

In May 2020 when we last wrote, Zambia had recorded 761 cases of Covid-19 and 7 deaths. Yesterday, we recorded 387 new cases, bringing the cumulative total to 85,889 with 1,175 deaths.

The second wave, mainly the UK and SA variants, peaked in mid-January. At the moment the positivity rate is around 6% and the recovery rate 96%. UCZ Health facilities have had over 250 hospitalised cases, and sadly four patient deaths.

Swabs taken from bodies at the UTH mortuary found over 20% positive for Covid-19, suggesting a substantial under-estimation, up to 10 times greater than reported.

A third wave is expected in June and July, with the peak likely to be double that of the second wave, especially as Zambia has no vaccine yet. 600 million doses are earmarked for Africa from Europe and North America. However, realistically the entire country cannot be vaccinated before then. So our efforts at procuring PPE, oxygen supplies and medicines are all the more urgent.

Our institutions have to be resupplied with oxygen at significant cost and distance in order to treat the Covid cases, brought to our centres. As a stop gap, all our institutions have received small oxygen concentrators, but this does not go really very far in addressing the real problem of a regular and easily available oxygen supply. Oxygen concentrators are only really used in homes in the more developed world.  The concentrators will not be adequate, if the number of cases are anywhere near as predicted, so we plan to give all our clinics and hospitals another oxygen cylinder with masks and regulator. This has been generously funded by partners.

In the first wave, overall mortality was greater amongst elderly men and people with underlying conditions. In the second wave here in Zambia there was greater morbidity amongst those of a younger age. Recent UN statistics suggest 60% of cases and 70% of deaths in the Sub-Saharan Africa were male.
Over the year there has been a 40% increase in cases of gender-based violence. Many men have been furloughed from work and so a greater financial burden has been placed on many women who support their families with daily informal trading. Street trade has fallen and many families are reduced to eating only once a day. There is also a greater risk of these vulnerable people being denied access to needed medicine or a future vaccine; fortunately so far, ARV [antiretroviral] treatment [for HIV/AIDS] has not been affected.

The policing of the Public Health Measures needs to be approached with greater sensitivity in appreciation of people’s loss of income and other social and economic vulnerabilities affecting them, so that stigma, discrimination and criminalisation is avoided.

Keith and Ida Waddell are Church of Scotland mission partners working for the United Church of Zambia, where Keith is the education secretary and Ida the health secretary

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The Coronavirus Diaries: reflections from Church of Scotland partners around the world

World Communion of Reformed Churches: The 'Covid and Beyond' Church
Pakistan: Passing the Light
Lebanon: The Lord Will Not Forsake Us
South Korea: 'It is Time For Christians to Hear the Marginalised'
Cuba: Keep Moving On
Canada: Cracks Have Been Exposed
Kenya: Leave No Child Behind
USA: Homes of Prayer
Mozambique: Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread
A Spaniard in Scotland: The Power of Movement
South Sudan: Being Positive
A Nigerian in Scotland: God is in Charge
Trinidad and Tobago: New Frontiers
Czech Republic: A Challenge for Everybody
Switzerland: An Outpouring of Solidarity and Creativity
The West Bank: A Landscape of Broken Dreams
Nepal: So Many Premature Goodbyes
Malawi: We Must Hold Each Other Close
Nigeria: A Fresh Spiritual Connectedness
Egypt: 'This Is A Time To Witness God'
Guyana: The Strength of our Connectedness
South Korea: A Harsh Reality
Zimbabwe: Convenience or a Wake-up Call?
Sri Lanka: Service is the Highest Form of Worship
USA: Testing Positive
Portugal: The Mission of the Church Has Not Changed
World Council of Churches: A New Dawn is Upon us
Hungary: Physically Distant but Close in Spirit
A German in Scotland: Something New Has Already Begun
Myanmar: We Will Overcome this Hardship
Ghana: This Too Shall Pass
Brazil: The Least We Can Do
Kenya: Caring for One Another in Christ
An Indian in Germany: A Time of Enrichment
Argentina: Time in Between
Malawi: 'My identity in Christ remains unchanged'
Jerusalem: Being Rather than Doing
Malawi: No Lockdown and an Election
Zambia: 'I will never leave you... or forsake you'
Czech Republic: The Covid Cover-up
Zambia: 'All Life is Sacred'
Israel/Palestine: 'The Air is Clear'
Nepal: 'Please Pray for Us'
Malawi: Tough Dilemmas
Italy: 'Together, We Will Get Through It'