Govt mulls lifting Covid-19 curfew…as new infections level off, recoveries rise  

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Blessings Mashaya
SENIOR STAFF WRITER
mashayab@dailynews.co.zw



AUTHORITIES are considering lifting the current coronavirus curfew as the country records increasingly fewer infections and more recoveries from the lethal disease, the Daily News reports.
However, medical experts — taking into account what the World Health Organisation (WHO) said earlier this week — have warned that it is too early to conclude that Covid-19 is definitely under control in the country.
Speaking in Parliament on Wednesday, Defence minister Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri, pictured, said Zimbabwe had flattened the Covid-19 curve, as there was now “equilibrium between increases in infections and increases in the recoveries”.

 

“The success story is pointing to the good mechanisms that we have put in place, including the curfew which we introduced after a very scientific review which analysed our capacity and capability.
“Decisions that we make are informed, whilst thorough research is done. If and when we are satisfied that the environment is conducive, we will consider that (curfew review).
“At the moment, there is equilibrium between increases in infections and increases in the recoveries. So, it is important that we continuously review as we improve,” Muchinguri-Kashiri, who is also the head of the Covid-19 taskforce, said.
“We do have … experts who study the situation within our region and also we work very closely with the WHO.
“At the moment, as I have alluded to, we have reached an equilibrium stage in our statistics. We are satisfied that our interventions are bearing fruit,” she added.
As of Wednesday, the country had recorded 6 638 positive cases, 206 deaths and 5 250 recoveries. The recovery rate constitutes about 80 percent of the confirmed infections.
So far, 205 650 people have been screened for the pandemic nationwide since the disease first broke out in the country in March this year.
But health experts warned yesterday that authorities should not take it as a given that Zimbabwe had flattened the Covid-19 curve — further imploring them to test more people to be able to conclude scientifically what the exact situation in the country was.
“It is difficult for now to say we have won the war against Covid-19. We need to do more tests.
“If we deal properly with the issue of tests, we will be able to know the correct figure of positive cases. For now it is difficult to conclude so.
“Let us remain focused,” Norman Matara, the secretary-general of the Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights (ZAHDR), told the Daily News.
“We must know that there are some people who are not going for tests and these people recover at home. So, and for now, we cannot have a definite conclusion.
“On the ground, we had already relaxed (lockdown measures), but what we need to do is to strengthen our health institutions so that we have the capacity to treat those who come to hospital,” he added.
The president of the Zimbabwe Nurses Association (Zina), Enock Dongo, dismissed outright the authorities’ conclusion that the Covid-19 curve had flattened — saying the low new infection levels were a result of few tests being carried out.
“It’s not true that we have managed to flatten the curve. The government is not doing anything … People are not being tested. There is a need to increase tests.
“People must remain vigilant because cases can go up. People must continue to follow WHO guidelines because the world is still fighting this pandemic,” Dongo told the Daily News.
This comes as WHO has warned that it is dangerous for countries to open their economies without enough safeguards.
Addressing a virtual meeting with journalists earlier this week, WHO director general Tedros Ghebreyesus said coronavirus was still a threat.
“Eight months into the pandemic, we understand that people are tired and yearn to get on with their lives.
“We understand that countries want to get their societies and economies going again. That’s what WHO wants too,” he said.
“Stay-at-home orders and other restrictions are something that some countries felt they needed to do to take pressure off their health systems.
“But they have taken a heavy toll on livelihoods, economies and mental health. WHO fully supports efforts to reopen economies and societies.
“We want to see children returning to school and people returning to the workplace, but we want to see it done safely,” Ghebreyesus added.
WHO’s warning comes as local authorities are planning to partially reopen learning centres ahead of the forthcoming end of year examinations.
However, teachers have claimed that the government has done little to improve infrastructure at schools to enable a safe return to classes.
Zimbabwe faces its first test on gatherings of many people when all examination students return to schools for face-to-face learning on September 14.
The decision to allow examination classes to reopen has put the authorities at odds with teachers who insist that the government is ill-prepared for the safe relaunch of in-class learning.
The teachers have since set tough conditions for their return to face-to-face teaching. Despite the criticism, Muchinguri-Kashiri said this decision was taken after extensive consultations.
“A lot of research was done by the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education, together with the ministry of Health, and they are responsible for making recommendations to the taskforce and the task force also recommends to the Cabinet.
“So, at the moment we are very satisfied that it is the statistics, the interaction which they undertook with all relevant stakeholders, that has been done and both indicated that they are happy.
“All measures have been put in place to make sure that the environment will be safe to allow examinations to take place,” Muchinguri-Kashiri further told Parliament.
“So, with that situation, we want to assure the nation that as I have indicated, everything is science-based. We undertake research to make sure our level of error is minimal,” she said further.

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