HARARE - Zimbabwe's President Emmerson Mnangagwa has extended the country's lockdown by two weeks to contain the coronavirus, while working people complain that they can’t make a living. Mnangagwa's response to them - it’s better for the economy to suffer than for the pandemic to kill people.
In a televised nationwide address, Mnangagwa said more people in Zimbabwe were getting infected by the coronavirus, and he feared the situation would get out control, hence a further extension of the lockdown, which began March 30.
“From the upward trajectory of infections it is evident that our country is yet to reach its peak [of the number of infection].… I appeal to all stakeholders to continue to appreciate and recognize that the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic presents a continuously evolving health situation that requires extreme caution on the part of government in order to protect everyone in the entire nation. We would rather err on the side of caution and not on the side of recklessness. Let’s all play our part,” Mnangagwa said.
His words referred in part to protective practices to fight the spread of the coronavirus. In the address, Mnangagwa said all citizens were now supposed to wear face masks outside their homes.
But some Zimbabweans, like Edmore Hangamwe, an informal trader, says the lockdown, which will now end mid-May, will bring hunger to his home if he stops selling vegetables at a popular market in Harare. He says lockdowns only work in the developed world.
“But in this third world we are in Zimbabwe, it’s unfortunate. I am dancing with death. I cannot be home. I have two children to look after. In the developed world, governments are paying [subsidies to the unemployed]. We just pray to the Lord that we're going to get a vaccine or something that [won't allow the virus to] spread all over southern Africa,” Hangamwe said.
Mnangagwa said his government would be releasing more funds to take care of the vulnerable, something Harare has been saying since the beginning of Zimbabwe’s lockdown. The 77-year-old Zimbabwean leader said funds also would be released to ensure the country's health delivery system remains functional.
Meanwhile, there is a call for an increased government effort to fight the disease. Dr. Tapiwa Mungofa, of the Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association, says coronavirus testing should be intensified and that more equipment is needed.
“Our worries are with the supplies. So far, the PPEs [personal protective equipment] that we have are mostly from donations. And, of course, we won’t know if the people who donated will keep donating. We are worried [about] what will happen if it runs out. We have heard reports that the government has started a procurement process of all PPEs available in the country. We won’t know how much we will get from that,” Mungofa said.
Zimbabwe’s health delivery system collapsed years ago, and it has largely been relying on international aid organizations, such as USAID, the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the European Union.