Combating Coronavirus – Lockdown or no lockdown?

By Wellington Zimbowa
THE elapsed socio-economic and political set-up poses a major hurdle in the embattled country’s efforts to contain the global pandemic, Coronavirus (Covid-19).
Covi-19 has infected hundred thousands of people across the globe, since the plague’s December 2019 advent, in China, where around 4.000 deaths have been recorded, whereas Zimbabwe’s official position of one confirmed death from three confirmed Covid-19 cases has raised public eyebrows.
Informed sources say government is bickering over what to do. Some are of the opinion that a total lockdown will be the most sensible economic architecture, as most people rely from hand-to-mouth, since the economy is hinged on mainly on the informal business, which naturally makes government develop cold feet.
In his latest national address over the pandemic following the first and only confirmed fatality in the country, President Emmerson Mnangagwa stressed on a cocktail of tightening measures to reduce human traffic at the country’s points of entry (borders) and workplaces, minimizing workforces in given sectors and adoption of e-business by government, amongst others.
President Mnangagwa made a veiled admission of the key position of informal markets to the country, while coming short on government’s quandary over managing the sector, in light of the pandemic.
“While Government will not, at this stage, close down informal markets, citizens are encouraged to limit their visits to such markets, and in any case to reduce the members involved, as well as, frequencies to these markets.
“Health and security personnel, and other volunteer workers will be deployed in these markets to enhance screening services,” he said.
However, policy conflict seems to reign in government with the health ministry lobbying for a total lock–up of the country, with people staying at home as the case with South Africa.
In one online talk show owned by state owned media, the health ministry outlined the maximum benefits of the country’s shut–down measures in combating Covid-19.
Health ministry’s environmental health director Mr. Victor Nyamandi said a uniform and timeous regional shutdown by member countries was essential in curbing the pandemic in the region.
Zimbabwe Coalition of Debt Management (ZIMCODD) executive director Ms. Janet Zhou said it was a hectic task, asking people to stay at home and suspend their day-to-day business exercises.
“Given the economic architecture of the country, whereby most people are relying on hand to mouth. If we are to say people stay at home, where is the finance to provide safety nets for their survival?
“The budget for the safety net for the vulnerable may be there, but where is the money and how is it being used,” she said.
She added that transparency and accountability was key for government to gain citizens’ trust.
The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions said while lockdown was essential it was not proper for companies to put the burden on employee since they are not the architects of the health catastrophe.
Many people have been calling for a total shutdown on social media, as a way of containing the dreadful pandemic.
Indications in Harare’s cbd show that human traffic has dramatically slumped, while most companies have given employees leave days.

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