COVID-19 OVERVIEW- Zambian Optometry point of View.

What seemed like a distant threat is now a close and devastating adversary. The Coronavirus is no longer a myth. It is now a reality in Zambia. The disease first found its way to Zambia via Zambians that had been to Asia and Europe. Despite having only a handful of cases in February and March, the latest figures show a rise in cases as shown by the Ministry of Health Report of 76 (cumulative figure) confirmed cases, 35 recoveries, 38 active cases and 3 deaths. There are also 8 medical staff who got exposed after attending to coronavirus patients. The Capital City Lusaka has reported the most Cases.

Up to date Zambia has not implemented a total Lock down instead the Ministry of health has put measures in place. These include mass gatherings like church services that have been put on hold and other events like weddings and funerals reduced to a small number of no more than 50. Other efforts like hand washing with soap and keeping about 2 meters apart when in public places. More recently a closure of all learning institutions and drinking places.Restaurants are operating on a take away basis only while large shops have been directed to deny entry to everyone who has no mask. Companies are being encouraged to allow their employees to work from home or on a rotational basis. There was a call for people to stay indoors to avoid contracting the disease, lastly but of greater importance was the washing of hands with soap and use of hand sanitizer.

Various Health professional Bodies have issued statements to their members concerning the virus and the measures to be put in place. The Health Professions council of Zambia (HPCZ) being the largest health regulatory body for most of the Health professions in the country including Optometrists (Optometry is yet to officially form an Association) has issued a statement to prioritize the safety of the practitioners and the clients.

In the Absence of a total Lock down, some measures that Optometrists are taking in addition to the generally  known ones are; to wear a face shield and to use a shield while using the slit lamp.Some Eye Hospitals have limited their services to emergencies only. While some Optical stores have closed completely for some weeks. Nevertheless some Stores are operating normal hours. They have placed buckets of water at the entrance for clients to wash hands.The National Optical Laboratory that supplies eyewear and accessories to at least 28 different hospitals around the Country has decided to close for 10 days as a result of closures by their suppliers in South Africa.

The coronavirus epidemic has demonstrated the ability to destroy economies, end lives, and change ways of living. Even Optometrists like other health practitioners have seen their work shift greatly into community education and sensitization on the virus and we have seen Zambians, in general, putting their resources together to fight against the virus and to see the country coronavirus free again. 

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