THE month of July was marked by an exponential increase in coronavirus (Covid-19) cases in Zimbabwe.
The country’s confirmed cases jumped from less than 500 to more than 3 000, while deaths increased from below 10 to over 50.
The month also witnessed a dramatic shift in the trajectory of Covid-19 as local transmissions have overtaken imported cases.
Since Zimbabwe confirmed its first case in March, many of the cases were imported from other countries including South Africa, Botswana, UK and the USA.
With the number of local transmissions on the rise, various firms and institutions have been forced to close or suspend activities as their staff have tested Covid-19 positive.
Just last week companies and institutions including Parliament, the National Social Security Authority (Nssa), Zimbabwe School Examinations Council (Zimsec), OK Fife Avenue, OK Norton, OK Mbuya Nehanda, Pick n Pay Kamfinsa, Pick n Pay Second Street, the Avenues Clinic and Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals, among others, closed after some of their employees tested positive to Covid-19.
The workspace is thus gradually becoming the epicentre of the disease as more and more workers are testing positive for the lethal virus.
Various business stakeholders who spoke to the Daily News on Sunday indicated that Covid-19 spelled doom for the country’s drive to resuscitate businesses and enhance much needed production.
Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI) president Henry Ruzvidzo said the closure of companies or suspension of services as more employees tested positive for Covid-19 would slow down the country’s productivity, which was already low.
“The country’s production has for a very long time been on the low side and 2020 was a year we were hoping that production would increase as austerity measures had come to an end and we were moving into an era focused on increasing production.
“As more employees test positive for Covid-19 and companies are forced to close temporarily, production will definitely decrease but there is nothing much industry can do.
“It is a good thing that industries are getting their employees tested in order to avoid an implosion in the future,” Ruzvidzo said.
Early this year, Finance minister Mthuli Ncube indicated that austerity measures were over and that the country was moving towards increased production and economic growth.
“We have said the 2020 budget is about growth and productivity in the main and job creation, supporting competitiveness and of course making sure that we have shared growth.
“So, that stance on growth and productivity, away from austerity — we have done austerity and it has served us well, it has created a good base and allowed us to do a lot of reforms, which have been painful. Now we’re ready to move to the next stage, which is to stimulate growth,” he said.
However, with the advent of Covid-19 Ncube reviewed the country’s prospects for growth and increased production in the recent mid-term budget review, indicating that Zimbabwe’s economy was projected to shrink by 4,5 percent in 2020 from 3 percent earlier projected due to the negative impact of the Covid-19.
Ncube added that the country’s tourism, non-food manufacturing, mining, financial services, transport and distribution and education sectors had so far been the most severely affected by Covid-19, owing to disruptions in the supply chain and now the temporary closure of businesses.
Employers Confederation of Zimbabwe president Israel Murefu said while the process of getting employees tested, close businesses temporarily and fumigate workspaces if staff have tested positive for the virus was expensive, it was necessary for businesses to participate in containing the local spread of the virus.
Confederation of Zimbabwe Retailers Association Denford Mutashu said the retail sector would probably be the worst hit due to its nature which attracts crowds.
“As we have witnessed in the past week most of the businesses that have had to close are retail shops. This is because the retail sector attracts large numbers of people at a time and it might be very difficult to enforce measures aimed at mitigating the spread of Covid-19,” Mutashu said.
He added that there was a need for the government, through the Health Ministry, to conduct random monitoring exercises in retail shops to ensure that measures to mitigate the spread of Covid-19 are observed.