The Zimbabwean government will begin giving COVID-19 booster shots to frontline health workers, the elderly, and people with chronic diseases, with immediate effect, a senior Ministry of Health and Child Care official said Friday, reported CGTN Africa.
The announcement came after the Zimbabwean government on Thursday confirmed the country’s first case of the new omicron coronavirus variant that was first detected in South Africa last week.
“Booster doses for frontline workers, those with chronic diseases, and the elderly to commence with immediate effect,” Robert Mudyiradima, the acting secretary in the Ministry of Health and Child Care said in a statement.
Zimbabwean Vice President and Minister of Health and Child Care Constantino Chiwenga confirmed the presence of the omicron variant in the country on Thursday. The health ministry reported that the number of coronavirus cases reported daily has begun to rise sharply over the past few days from 40 on Sunday to 1,042 on Thursday. The total number of coronavirus cases currently stands at 136,379, with 4,707 deaths.
The Zimbabwean government claims that it has acquired enough COVID-19 vaccines to inoculate 60 percent of the population to achieve herd immunity. As of Thursday, 3,829,636 people had received their first dose and 2,851,625 their second dose.
Earlier this week, Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa announced a slew of measures to curb the spread of the pandemic that includes mandatory quarantine for visitors and residents despite the status of PCR results, and an extension of curfew from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m.
In related news, the World Health Organization (WHO) on Friday said Omicron has been detected in 38 countries but there are no reported deaths so far from the new COVID-19 variant.
WHO spokesperson Christian Lindmeier also said it is commendable that COVID-19 vaccine makers are planning for the “likelihood” of needing to adjust their products to protect against the Omicron variant.