OPERATION 100 Covid-19 Taskforce chairperson Inambao Sitwala has called for enhanced dissemination of COVID-19 awareness campaign messages in local languages, saying this could help convince more people to get vaccinated.

In an interview, Sitwala said despite COVID-19 restrictions being lifted, there was need for continued sensitisation of citizens on the pandemic using local languages.

“People need to survive on the day-to-day needs so that they can fend for their families. The greatest thing that we can do… yes the lifting up of restrictions is welcome, welcome in the sense that it must be coupled with an enhanced way of communicating to the public. Let people continue to be sensitised, let people continue to be told the five golden rules in all local languages, in braille, in written, in every other form of communication. It should be enhanced and even at churches. Churches are major spreaders, political activities are major spreaders and also any other gatherings, in the market, those are super spreaders,” he said.

“So in those areas, let there be an identification of the market leaders. Let the market leaders in the market be given those flyers and microphones (megaphones) to enhance the sensitisation. And this sensitisation should be special in the sense that if they can do sensitisation in local languages at market levels, those that are market leaders, they go around in the morning to talk about how to prevent the disease, how the disease spreads and also basically in case someone shows signs and symptoms where they can easily find help. So that those people that are not feeling well can actually be attended to.”

Sitwala said the COVID-19 messages should be simplified using languages easily understood by citizens.

“So the language there is very important because language can act as a barrier to communication. Therefore, the information cannot be gotten clearly, if the language that people are using is too technical from the health sector. People may not appreciate the information if it’s too technical. So let the language be simplified by the people that are in the markets. It is easier for those found in the market to get information from the market leaders because these are the people they are found with daily,” he said.

And Sitwala said weather patterns also had an impact on the progression of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Basically what I can say as chairperson for the Operation 100 Covid-19 Taskforce is that so far from the time the pandemic started, we have seen a very straightforward trend under which the disease is actually progressing. The progression of this disease has a very big significance to the weather pattern at any particular time. So it simply means that when it’s hot cases are lower and when it’s very cold cases increase. This is purely a respiratory disease. So when it is colder, it makes almost everybody vulnerable to attack and therefore the defence system also gets lower because these are the times when we have these common flu, common colds. So as a result Covid equally takes advantage of the immune systems that are lower at a particular time,” he said.

“So with the Ministry [of Health] coming up with a decision to lower the restrictions and open up the economy, it’s a welcome idea to open up the economy because people need to survive. But I think what is important also to make clear is that the Ministry of Health needs to continuously provide information on how people can manage both the pandemic as well as managing the economy. Because to be honest, we can’t go on a lockdown for fear of Covid whilst the economy is suffering”.

He added that the sensitisation of COVID-19 preventative measures should also be enhanced in schools.

“In the same sense, the schools should come up with a timetable of how these people should be sensitised. A poster is very important because the assumption is that everybody can read. We have been with Covid now for almost three years going to four years, from 2019 to today. Let teachers also come up with that programme like on Mondays’ during assembly, let Covid be part and parcel of the topic,” said Sitwala.

“At least before a lecture all the students and pupils should be masked up. So those are some of the preventative measures that can be enhanced today. And you may be shocked that all what we need to do is basically follow the five simple golden rules and there is nothing complicated about it, once all those golden rules are followed Covid is actually reduced like that. So we have talked about the market, the schools, the churches as well as just these gatherings that people have. So all these are super spreaders and as we go into the cold season, we need to reduce the numbers and [avoid] unnecessary traveling as well, [it] is going to also help us to curb the disease.