HARARE - Zimbabwe on Monday began a 21-day lockdown to try to stop the spread of the coronavirus. Health care advocates and the business community are generally supportive, but have aired concerns they say the government needs to address.
“We are worried that even as our numbers remain low there is possibility of wider community spread and transmissions. Further, in about two months’ time winter will be upon us, creating conditions ideal for more infections. There is need to take decisive measures now against the pandemic.” said President Emmerson Mnangagwa speaking on state television Monday, justifying the lockdown aimed at containing the spread of COVID-19.
So far, there are only nine confirmed cases of the virus in Zimbabwe, and only one death.
But to keep the numbers down, the government is requiring people to stay in their homes for the next three weeks, except when buying food and other essentials. Schools are shut down, as are most businesses.
Speaking via WhatsApp, Fortune Nyamande, the chairman of the Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights, welcomed the lockdown. However, he said the lockdown needs to supplemented by increased efforts to detect COVID-19 cases.
“…The lockdown on its own is not a panacea to solving the COVID19 pandemic. The lockdown needs to be supplemented by additional measures such as increased case detection, increased community surveillance and as you are aware only less than 200 have been tested for coronavirus in Zimbabwe. These are very low and pathetic figures. So for us to contain this outbreak, during the lockdown let’s test more people,” said Nyamande.
The country’s business owners will be in a tough spot during the next three weeks, with most deprived of income.
Sam Wadzai is from the Vendors Initiative for Social and Economic Transformation Zimbabwe. Via Whatsapp, he explains the vendors’ dilemma.
“This lockdown is only in the best interest of this country. After all we have to be united to fight this deadly virus. But at the same time we also encourage the government to ensure that they put in place support mechanisms to continue so that people are able to survive during this lockdown period. We expect this to be done as quickly as possible so that people don’t die of hunger,” he said.
President Mnangagwa was expected to meet with business owners Monday to discuss their concerns over loss of revenue during the 21-day lockdown. So far, the government has made no guarantees of financial support.