AS COVID-19 cases continue to spiral out of control in the country amid soaring deaths, health experts have called on authorities to further tighten the national lockdown and also decree that all inter-city travellers possess valid certificates showing that they don’t have the lethal disease.
In addition, the experts told the Daily News yesterday, security forces needed to increase patrols in high density suburbs, to enforce adherence to coronavirus restrictions that include the dusk-to-dawn curfew and the ban on alcohol sales at bars and shebeens.
This comes after 34 people died and 1 365 others were infected by the lethal virus in one day — the country’s highest daily figure since the novel virus was first reported in Zimbabwe in March last year.
It also comes as the country has entered a hard 30-day national lockdown that was imposed by authorities at the weekend, following an upsurge in fatalities and the spread of the deadly respiratory virus nationally.
Among the health experts who called for more robust action against Covid-19 yesterday was top local medical doctor, Solwayo Ngwenya, who warned that without introducing more measures, authorities should brace for more deaths and infections in the country.
“This is just the beginning of a terrible situation that we find ourselves in. We allowed this virus to spread in the community, and so the death rate will most likely go up for some time into the foreseeable future.
“We have been teetering on the brink, but now we are falling off the cliff. This is not a joke and I am afraid we will have to make the lockdown harder than it is now to save lives.
“The figures we are recording are quite shocking. What is happening is that many people are going to die, with some dying without being tested. We need to be very careful about what we do as a nation,” Ngwenya told the Daily News.
“The current lockdown measures reduce the number of human contacts, but there is need to be more vigilant to ensure that people do not go back to their old habits of mixing and mingling, which causes mass infections.
“While the lockdown will not eradicate the virus completely, it reduces the rates of infection. So, the lockdown may actually be extended or made stiffer depending on what will be happening going forward,” Ngwenya further told the Daily News.
Similarly, the Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights (ZADHR) warned that the re-introduced hard lockdown alone would not lead to the containment of Covid-19 in the country.
“ZADHR posits that there are too many loopholes in the proposed letters of travel authorisation process, with reports that some retailers are being granted exemption letters to operate in unclear circumstances.
“We reiterate that the scientific basis of a lockdown is predicated upon limiting most, if not all, human movement for a period of 14 to 21 days.
“Furthermore, the government must identify provincial hotspots and have tailored measures or different levels of the lockdown depending on the incidence of Covid-19.
“Inter-provincial travel must be urgently limited and Covid-19 certificates may be considered for all local travel from all hotspots,” the ZADHR said.
The doctors also lamented the continued influx of travellers through airports at a time that the country was facing “an existential threat of new strains of Covid-19 from South Africa and the United Kingdom”.
They further argued that the response by authorities to the virus had been reactionary, and that it was devoid of proper planning, including the provision of social safety nets for easy enforcement of the lockdown regulations.
“Policies designed to curtail movement have an impact on the livelihoods of poor individuals and communities who generally depend on day-to-day enterprising, thus demanding Covid-19 response strategies that have a binary approach which involves cutting transmission models and complementing the poor with necessary social and economic support,” the doctors said further.
The president of the Senior Hospital Doctors Association (SHDA), Shingai Nyaguse, called for team work between authorities and healthcare workers to contain the spiralling cases of Covid-19.
“As a country, we are well able to ride this storm if we come together and pool resources. It is imperative that the ministry of Health, business and all stakeholders come together to tackle the pandemic.
“The ministry should abandon its adversarial stance towards health care workers. We need staff urgently,” Nyaguse said.
The chief coordinator of the national response to the Covid-19 pandemic in President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s office, Agnes Mahomva, said while the government was concerned by the “extraordinary rise in the number of cases and deaths”, it would not rush to adjust the current measures.
“We always consider every advice that comes to the table. But in whatever we do, we stand guided by the new World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines which provide that any new measures must pay attention to the impact on the population.
“In this case, we are carefully investigating the extraordinary figures to see what measures we can put in place, as well as to find out if the figure is not a case where previous figures were mistakenly lumped together and announced as the day’s statistics.
“We cannot rush to adjust lockdown measures on the basis of one day’s figures,” Mahomva told the Daily News yesterday.
This comes as the country has just started the month-long and stiffened stay-at-home order, as authorities bid to curb Covid-19’s spread in the country.
The reversion to a hard lockdown saw authorities re-introducing a fresh dusk-to-dawn curfew. In addition, the operations of all businesses — except those providing essential services — were once again suspended for 30 days, as authorities battle to curb the spread of the lethal disease.
The re-imposed dusk-to-dawn curfew means that people are prohibited from being out and about between 6pm and 6am, except for those providing essential services.
In addition, supermarkets now operate from 8am to 3pm. But air travel and essential land transportation across borders for trucks continue under the new measures announced by Vice President Constantino Chiwenga, who is also the country’s Health minister.