Zim lacks cohesion in fighting Covid-19

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THE plan by the government to make public the names of people infected with coronavirus (Covid-19), in violation of the country’s own lockdown regulations, demonstrates a shocking lack of cohesion in Zimbabwe’s strategy to contain the killer virus, which has so far claimed four lives out of close to 280 infections.

What makes the government’s plan, which was announced by Health minister Obadiah Moyo on Wednesday, even more preposterous is the fact that one Jimmy Mhlanga is currently out on $500 bail after being charged with contravening sections of the Public Health Act which criminalises the disclosure of details relating to Covid-19 patients undergoing treatment.

It beggars belief that the same government can come up with two diametrically opposed positions on the same issue in a very short space of time. This clearly shows a government at sixes and sevens. Why should Zimbabwe go against international norms and its own Covid-19 lockdown regulations and in the process violate the right to privacy of those infected with the deadly disease?

The fact that coronavirus is a “contagious” and “notifiable” disease, to quote the Health minister’s own words, should never be allowed to justify exposing people infected with Covid-19 to stigma, ridicule and discrimination.
It is not surprising therefore that the controversial plan has justifiably been attacked left, right and centre by medical experts and human rights groups.

They were spot on when they told the Daily News that the government’s desire to identify people infected with the disease, which has killed close to 400 000 people globally, does not absolve it from respecting patient confidentiality. As Senior Hospital Doctors Association (SHDA) secretary-general Aaron Musara rightly pointed out, the identification of people infected with Covid-19 has brought about near-fatal consequences in other countries:

“There is a problem of stigma which may pose serious challenges. There have been attempts to burn some (Covid-19) positive people in some countries because of the wrong perception that they would have solved the coronavirus problem for good.

“Our country is not immune to such levels of stupidity. Patient confidentiality needs to be respected … Publishing names of infected non-offenders stinks.”

Clearly the government has lost it. They should immediately abort this crazy and ill-conceived plan which is highly insentive to Zimbabweans battling against the killer virus. Instead of exposing Covid-19-positive people to potential harm, the government should come up with ways to help them recover quickly.

They should also craft a more robust strategy to effectively rid the country of the fatal virus.

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