Anxiety and fear are reigning supreme in the hearts and minds of all Zimbabweans due to the COVID-19 outbreak that is now deeply rooted in our country. We believe that there is still hope for our nation to flatten this epidemic, and reach negligible peak levels, if we take drastic measures, which we wish to re-iterate today.
But first of all our sincere condolences to the Makamba family, and indeed to all Zimbabweans, on the untimely loss of our second confirmed COVID-19 case, Zororo. Our hearts go out to the family in solidarity, and we take very seriously all the observations they made about our unpreparedness for this disaster, and the hardships and mental torment they had to endure.
This is a wake up call for Zimbabwe and we must respond promptly and appropriately to this challenge. I must point out that this brings our case fatality rate to 50%! This is not acceptable. Let’s watch this number as we go along. We must achieve case fatality rates of a fraction of 1%. Then we know our health delivery system is working as it should. The big lesson we learn from this first fatality is that preparedness is not something we can only wish, but we’ve got to work hard at it and deploy resources big time towards preparedness.
Mere reassurance from those in authority will not work. Waiting for donations is not a viable option. We must take the lead in prioritizing healthcare in our expenditures. At the end of 60 days or so we should look back with satisfaction and say “that money was well worth spending”. To that end we ask government to suspend all non life saving program expenditures and channel resources to health care for the next 2-3 months.
We have another disaster looming. Healthcare workers cannot continue to work in this toxic environment without the necessary personal protective equipment (PPE). We have noted how health care workers died in countries and economies much tougher than ours. We also note with much trepidation that 4800 health care workers have been infected by COVID-19 in Italy, and that this represents 9% of total cases. We should not sacrifice any doctor or nurse on the altar of self imposed poverty in a country that is so well endowed with resources.
It is imperative that government provides forthwith the necessary PPE for health workers so that they can come to work with the confidence that they will return home safely. At this point in time we wish to emphasise that we are firmly behind the health workers for demanding proper working conditions in the face of a highly infectious virus. Provision of water at all our hospitals is also non-negotiable. We urge the government to go the extra mile and give a risk allowance as requested by some health workers. This has been done in the past and it went a long way towards incentivizing the health workers to continue to serve the nation in very dangerous environs. Any non-availability of health workers from the hospitals and any ensuing disastrous consequences will squarely be on the government’s shoulders.
We further urge the government to institute a total lockdown of our cities, and to close all borders except for the most essential travel. Communication with the public is key at all times.
The message on constant hand washing, use of hand sanitisers, social distancing, banning of public gatherings, self isolation, and working from home whenever possible must be reinforced daily. Telephonic consultations are encouraged at this time to minimize human to human contact.
We wish to appreciate the international community for your valued assistance at this difficult time, our local authorities for the hard work and taking the challenge on head on under very difficult circumstances, all our health workers in general, and all Zimbabweans for your great fortitude.
We will subdue the virus if we climb with care and confidence, looking after each other’s needs, watching each other’s backs, and prioritizing health care.
Secretary for Health & Child Welfare
Movement for Democratic Change