Zimbabwe gears up for lockdown extension

ZIMBABWE is set to enter its third week of national lockdown with President Emmerson Mnangagwa saying he cannot tell whether at the end of the current 21-day national lockdown, restrictive regulations will be lifted.

This comes as the number of confirmed cases in Zimbabwe rose to 11 on Wednesday with the death toll standing at three.

“The question of lockdowns? We are at different levels of impositions of lockdowns in the region,” Mnangagwa said yesterday.

I cannot tell you whether at the end of 21-days we shall lift the lockdown. I only appeal that all of us observe the lockdown, observe the measures to comply. That way we save lives. Be remembered for efforts to save lives,” he said.

Health practitioners and unions among them Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights have complained about inadequate screening of people for coronavirus symptoms across the country.

Opposition leader Nelson Chamisa on Thursday said there was need to step up testing and tracking efforts if the country was to survive the raging effects of COVID-19.

“A disaster is loading in Zimbabwe. Lives are at risk.We must invest on testing and tracking,” Chamisa wrote on his twitter account.

“A lockdown without testing, tracking and isolation is useless.Rwanda has tested over 1500 people in two days and SA 68000 so far. Zim has “tested” 392 only over the past month.Leadership a necessity!” he concluded.

World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Monday said testing was paramount if the world was to win the war against COVID-19

On Wednesday Tedros urged political parties to join hands and fight COVID-19 stressing “unity is the only option to defeat this virus.”

“My message to political parties: do not politicize this virus. If you care for your people, work across party lines and ideologies … Without unity, we assure you, even any country that may have a better system will be in trouble, and more crises,” Tedros told a virtual press conference from Geneva.

No need to use COVID to score political points. You have many other ways to prove yourselves. This is not the one to use for politics, It’s like playing with fire,” Tedros added.

Analysts say Zimbabwean politicians have so far put political ambitions first ahead of the national good with the Zanu-PF led government recently widening those divisions through the announcement of the MDC’s Supreme Court ruling in the middle of a national crisis.

South Africa extension

Meanwhile, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa on Thursday extended the country’s strict lockdown to combat the coronavirus until the end of April.

In a speech broadcast to the nation, Ramaphosa said the lockdown of Africa’s most industrialized economy, which has been in effect since March 27, has succeeded in reducing the country’s average daily increase of new COVID-19 cases from 42% to about 4%.

“We must proceed in a manner that is cautious,” Ramaphosa said. “If we end the lockdown too soon or too abruptly, we risk a massive and uncontrollable resurgence of the disease. We risk reversing the gains we have made over the last few weeks.”

South Africa, with 57 million people, has the most virus cases in Africa, with more than 1,900. It went into lockdown and restricted travel into the country fairly early after it first recorded the virus, a strategy adopted by several other countries on the continent.

South Africa’s police and military have been maintaining the lockdown, especially in the large, poor townships and informal settlements on the outskirts of Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban, Pretoria and other large cities. The measures order all but essential workers to stay at home and sales of alcohol and cigarettes are banned.

Ramaphosa said his government will increase testing for the virus to identify hotspots of infection and would offer isolation facilities for people who test positive but cannot quarantine themselves in crowded living conditions. He said human rights would be respected at all times, addressing the concerns of activists who warn that enforced isolations will be open to abuse.

In response to the global shortage of medical supplies, including protective gear and ventilators, South Africa’s industrial sector will be offered incentives to ramp up production of those products, he said. And cell phone networks will be used to reach those who have been in contact with people found to be positive for the virus.

Ramaphosa also announced several economic measures including support to those who lose employment due to the lockdown. He said he and his Cabinet will cut their salaries by 30% for three months, with the money to be donated to the national fund to support the poor.

The extension of the lockdown was not unexpected based on the need to increase testing to find out where the virus has spread, said political analyst Karima Brown.

“Even though the economy is in trouble, it was a decision taken after consultation with other social partners, so that shows you the seriousness of it,” Brown said.

A leader of the Democratic Alliance opposition party, Alan Winde, welcomed the extension but urged the government to implement measures to limit job losses caused by the restrictions.

“We all want the economy to come back to life, we want people to return to work, we want our children to go back to school, and we all want to be able to move freely again,” said Ramaphosa. “But our immediate priority must remain to slow down the spread of the virus and to prevent a massive loss of life. We must do this while preventing our economy from collapsing and saving our people from hunger. We are determined to pursue a path that both saves lives and protects livelihoods.”