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Covid-19 cases are soaring Mnangagwa had to extend lockdown and will do so again - damned if dare, damned if doesn't

20 Apr 2020 at 09:19hrs | Views
President Emmerson Mnangagwa has just announced that Zimbabwe's total lockdown will be extended by a further 14 days. This came as no surprise given the number of corona virus cases had gone up from 10 to 25 during the 21-day lockdown which was due to end midnight tonight.

It would have made no sense to end the lockdown when the corona virus infection is going up.

There is every reason to believe that the virus is spreading and therefore the number of confirmed corona virus cases will increase considerably. If the government keeps its promise of carrying out 1 000 corona virus tests per day, up from 40 tests or so per day, especially testing of all those with flu like symptoms and track and all those tracked after coming in conduct with an infected person; then number of infected people will double very week.

So, with confirmed 25 corona virus cases today and we can expect 100 or so cases at the end of this 14-day lockdown; it will be mad to end the lockdown then. The lockdown will be extended again and again as the corona virus numbers will continue to increase.

Whilst the lockdown has proven an effective tool in stopping the spread of corona virus is countries like Italy it is not such an effective tool in Zimbabwe for the following reasons: a) The first step before imposing the lock down is to do everything possible to stop the virus being brought into the country, quarantine all new arrivals. Zimbabwe did not have quarantine facilities for all new arrivals even those suspected of having the virus. All new arrivals were advised to self-isolate and no effort was made to ensure this was practical and that the advice was followed. In the case of the late Zororo Makamba, immigration officials tried to detain him because he had corona virus symptoms. He complained to a senior government official and the officials were instructed to let him go.

b) The second line of defence is encouraging personal hygiene especially when there is any possibility of picking the corona virus from someone else. People were advised to wash their hands regularly with soap or an alcohol-based disinfectant. To stay at home, work from home, and exercise physical distancing, 2 metres, whenever possible. In Zimbabwe most people in urban cities and towns have no access to regular clean running water and in the crowded high-density suburbs physical distancing is near impossible. The situation is even worse for those in the rural areas.

c) The decision to impose a lockdown; stopping all activities, except those deemed essential; must be evidence based. There must be evidence the virus is spreading with suspected epicentres and that a lockdown will stop the virus spreading beyond the epicentres. The lockdown works in conjunction with other measures such as testing, tracking, isolating and/or treating. Those in the frontline, dealing with corona virus cases must wear appropriate protective equipment. To have imposed a nationwide lockdown on the basis of 10 confirmed cases premature, to say the least. It was criminal negligence on the part of the government to be carrying out a misery 40 tests per day and none of the other follow up measures when it was clear the dreaded corona virus had touched down in Zimbabwe.

d) Extending the initial 21-day lockdown by another 14 days and increasing the number of targeted tests from 40 to 1 000 per day will go a long way in moving decision making from the present a shot in the dark to informed. Still, it must be restated that improved testing regiment alone will not stop the virus spreading. Government must ensure there is supply of clean running water, there are facilities to effectively isolate those with the virus, etc. And, most important of all, government must provide food and shelter for the millions forced into abject poverty or it will be near impossible to enforce and sustain the lockdown. So, the first 21-day lockdown has failed to slow down the spread of corona virus, the number of confirmed cases has gone up from 10 to 25 in the three weeks. Government failed to take the necessary measure to stop the corona virus getting into the country and then spread.

This newly announced 14-day lockdown extension will not stop the virus spreading either because there is not even one concrete measure government has adopted to stop the virus spreading. Not even one! The lockdown has forced millions into abject poverty and government has not honoured its repeated promise to provide them with food and shelter. They face the rock or deep blue sea choice of adhering to the lockdown demands and die of hunger. Or to ignore the lockdown and risk dying of corona virus.

There are reports of people in SA queuing for 14 hours for food packages from government. When the food failed to materialise they rioted and looted shops. The Mnangagwa government must know it too cannot extend the lockdown without risking social unrest.

If Zimbabwe was to finally bite the bullet and put an end to the wholesale looting of the nation's diamonds and other resources, Zimbabwe will certainly raise significant money to ease the financial hardships throughout these hard times.

What is more, by finally stamping out the curse of corruption; IMF, WB and other institutions will stop viewing Zimbabwe as a wasteful pariah state and treat it as a democratic nation worthy of their trust and assistance.

So, what is the way out of this hell? Well there no denying that corona virus is spreading like a wildfire and having this corrupt and incompetent Zanu PF regime will only make a desperate situation even worse. Zanu PF's failure to implement even the common-sense measures, such as the failure to enforce the quarantine measures at the outbreak of the corona virus, failure to test, etc. is criminal negligence. The way forward for Zimbabwe is therefore obvious; the country needs a competent and accountable government. Now!

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