Govt in catch 22 situation
WITH less than a week before the lapse of the 21-day national lockdown, the government finds itself in a catch 22 situation on whether to extend the curfew or call it off.
While the national lockdown was absolutely necessary in order to arrest the spread of the deadly Coronavirus (Covid-19), it has, however, brought with it serious socio-economic consequences such as the loss of income for millions of people who survive from hand to mouth in Zimbabwe’s largely informal economy.
Already there have been serious concerns that an extension would collapse the survival strategies and networks of support for poor households as they will not be able to secure sufficient food and medicines.
Another thought is that perhaps it’s time for government to loosen the national lockdown and adopt some alternative, but effective methods of containing the spread of the deadly virus.
Zimbabwe has not really done well in testing its citizens compared to the number of people that have crossed into our country. So far the government has tested just under 600 people out of a population of about 15 million.
The purpose of the lockdown as advised by medical professionals is to flatten the curve of infection and this can be done by having more tests.
Thus it is difficult to say if the country has reached a point where it must return to normal business. If anything, the confirmed cases have been steadily rising though at a slow pace.
At this point in time it is important for the government to put support structures to the lockdown; the testing and social nets. The government must conduct mass testing to get a scientific position on the state of infections.
The dilemma is for the government to call off the lockdown and then tomorrow announce that the worst is not over and that we have to go back into lockdown.
The key, however, is to strike a balance between public health concerns and the livelihoods of ordinary people who survive from hand to mouth.
Unlike her neighbours, Zimbabwe doesn’t have huge financial resources to subsidise the informal and formal sectors.
However, its clear Covid-19 is still with the country for the foreseeable future so any intervention must be necessary and proportionate to avoid fuelling hunger-induced deaths.
The lockdown should have been supported by testing and isolation for it to be more effective; it also must be supported by distribution of food aid and other items for the poor.
Another way forward is that the government must mobilise testing kits and food supplies and extend the lockdown until it is clear of the extent of infections.
Decentralisation of testing citizens has taken too long while personal protective equipment, especially for the frontline personnel like the nurses, doctors and security people, is scarce and this exposes those who are providing these essential services.