Zim in dire straits as Covid-19 bites… experts call for firmer enforcement of hard lockdown

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Mugove Tafirenyika



AS THE country’s coronavirus infections continue to spike alarmingly, authorities have been urged to further tighten the current stay-at-home order — amid growing ill-discipline by ordinary people.

Health experts who spoke to the Daily News yesterday also implored the police to restore the security checkpoints that were there during Zimbabwe’s first hard lockdown last year.

All this comes as more and more people are succumbing to the lethal pandemic, amid declining numbers of those who are recovering from the respiratory disease.

The president of the Zimbabwe Nurses Association (Zina), Enock Dongo, warned in an interview with the Daily News yesterday that the government could soon be overwhelmed by Covid-19 cases if people continued to disregard the hard lockdown.

“The lockdown is not strict enough because we are seeing people going around willy-nilly, without even putting on masks.

“Every morning there are hundreds, if not thousands, at markets that sell farm produce in almost all high density suburbs..

“If nothing is done, we are headed for a catastrophe and we will … all perish,” Dongo told the Daily News.

Highly-regarded Bulawayo-based medical doctor, Solwayo Ngwenya, also said the lack of discipline and adherence to lockdown restrictions by many citizens was worrying.

“It is the behaviour of individuals who are not taking Covid-19 seriously. It is not possible for law enforcement agents to police everyone.

“The people are inviting a stricter lockdown, whereby they will not be allowed to leave their homes at all.

“These harsher measures will save their own lives and also help to reduce the pressure on health care facilities,” Ngwenya told the Daily News.

Yesterday, police also said they were concerned by such behaviour in the face of rising deaths and the rapid spread of coronavirus in the country.

“The police have also noted with concern that people are not observing physical distancing and putting on masks, while many are also gathering at markets.

“Bars are also being opened, with their owners playing hide-and-seek with the police … and we want to warn the public that they must not cry foul when they are arrested.

“We also call upon the public to report to the police those who disregard the regulations for their own safety,” national police spokesperson, Paul Nyathi, told the Daily News.

Meanwhile, the national chief Covid-19 co-ordinator in President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s office, Agnes Mahomva, said yesterday that a crucial meeting would be held today to evaluate the first week of the current lockdown — with a view to making adjustments where necessary.

“There is a need to balance between what we seek to achieve and what is on the ground. We are always guided by the World Health Organisation (WHO) which reminds us to consider the impact of our measures on the populace.

“Tomorrow (today) we are meeting as the national taskforce to review the lockdown, to see where adjustments are needed based on information we get from the police and the media, about what is happening on the ground,” she said.

This comes after 22 people succumbed to the respiratory disease on Friday, with a further 15 also dying the following day — as the number of people infected by the novel virus since it was first reported in the country last March breached 20 000.

At the weekend, deputy Health and Child Care minister John Mangwiro said the country was in the process of acquiring Covid-19 vaccines.

“We are moving towards introducing the Covid-19 vaccine and the necessary processes, including registration and the procurement modalities, as well as working out how much will be needed.

“Our message at the moment is that people must stay at home and do the right thing to ensure that they don’t exacerbate the spread of Covid-19, for the sake of everyone’s well-being,” Mangwiro told the Daily News on Friday.

Zimbabwe is party to the World Health Organisation (WHO)-led Global Access Facility, Covax, which plans to secure and distribute millions of doses of the vaccine to developing countries.

Provisionally, the WHO distribution mechanism seeks to proportionally allocate doses until all countries have enough doses to cover 20 percent of their populations.

Neighbouring South Africa, which is the hardest hit country on the continent, has already started procuring vaccines estimated to cost R20,6 billion.

Zimbabwe entered the second week of its stay-at-home order at the weekend. The reversion to a hard lockdown has seen authorities re-introducing a fresh dusk-to-dawn curfew.

The re-imposed curfew means that people are prohibited from being out and about between 6pm and 6am, except for those providing essential services.

In addition, the operations of all businesses — except those providing essential services — were also once again suspended for 30 days, as authorities battle to curb the spread of the lethal disease.


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