Dar es Salaam — The urge to return to normalcy amid the Covid-19 pandemic is increasing in Tanzania and elsewhere. Yet, the shift of mindset to a freer world is potentially risky and could leave people stuck in complacency, believing that the battle against coronavirus has been won. But this is at their own peril.
When Tanzania reported its first Covid-19 case in Arusha in mid-March, there was a rush for whatever preventive method that was available. Schools and sports stadiums were closed. Demand for sanitizer, soap and face masks surged. Almost every shop had a bucket of water in front for handwashing.
However, as various reports from officials in Tanzania and elsewhere around the world signal return to normal life, there is a pressing need for advocacy campaigns on prevention - or else a new wave of corona-virus infections could set in, under-mining initial efforts, experts say.
In Dar es Salaam, about three days ago scores of people flocked to Coco Beach on the shores of the Indian Ocean to celebrate, as Tanzanians joined Muslims across the world to mark Idd-ul-Fitr. When a team of experts from the minis-try of Health visited the area, the assessment was that people had ignored almost all the experts' guidelines on Covid-19 prevention.
Leading the team was Dr Amalberga Kasangalla, the ministry's the acting deputy director at the Public Health Education unit who said most people at the beach had disregarded wearing face masks and maintaining social distance.
"This shows we still have a lot to do in terms of educating the public. We all agree that there are indications that the Covid-19 trend is going down; but that does not mean the coronavirus is gone," she said, calling for heightened vigi-lance.
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The Head of the World Health Organization (WHO)'s Europe Office, Dr. Hans Kluge, warned weeks ago, saying, "We still have a long way to go in the marathon, as the progress we have made so far in fighting the virus is extremely fragile. To think we are coming close to an endpoint would be a dangerous thing to do. The virus leaves no room for error or complacency.
"In China, Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan where transmission was minimized, complacency leaves lessons of imported cases that have been reported in those countries, triggering the risk of a second wave of the pandemic.
Ahead of June when most public places will open in Tanzania, the danger of complacency is feared. "During this period, there is a need to be extra cautious. Insisting on all rules of prevention is important more than ever before. After being told that cases have gone down, people may have relaxed, believing the coronavirus is gone. But it's still here," says Dr Elisha Osati, President of the Medical Association of Tanzania (MAT).