Confusion over lockdown rules

Source: Confusion over lockdown rules – NewsDay Zimbabwe


THE new COVID-19 lockdown measures have exposed government’s panic mode and failure to plan in dealing with a crisis which needs a scientific and inclusive approach, stakeholders said yesterday.

Vice-President and Health minister Constantino Chiwenga on Saturday announced hard lockdown measures that will come into effect from tomorrow.

Chiwenga, however, did not explain what providers of essential services permitted to work during the month-long lockdown would be required to produce to be allowed through police checkpoints, which is likely to trigger

Nurses, politicians, vendors, among others, said while the lockdown was necessary, imposing it without consulting stakeholders to address key fundamentals was not likely to yield the expected results.

Zimbabwe Nurses Association president Enock Dongo said lockdown was the only option given the lack of capacity to deal with the growing numbers of COVID-19 cases by the government.

“We had no choice and that was the best option available because we have no capacity to handle more cases of COVID-19,” he said.

“Our hospitals are not ready for many cases, our health workers are not ready for them, all of us are not ready and the government is not ready because we are now almost approaching a year with COVID-19 but nothing has been done.”

Added Dongo: “People looted money for COVID-19 and enriched themselves. They used COVID-19 as an opportunity to make money at the expense of the ordinary people.”

Opposition MDC Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa said the move by the government was out of panic, and not planning.

“We need a team Zimbabwe approach to a crisis. Chiwenga’s statement was more out of panic than planning, as there was no consultation whatsoever of business, churches, labour and others.

“The latest rules do not deal with the supporting measures to citizens and communities during lockdown. If people must stay at home, support is key. Commanding the closure of the economy without the necessary support — economic relief, medical and social measures — is suicidal,” he said.

Added Chamisa: “Another critical omission from the new measures is the failure to address the plight of healthcare staff on the frontline. Healthcare workers without personal protective equipment is like sending soldiers to the front without guns and ammunition. It is cruel and must be addressed as a matter of urgency.

“Livelihoods will be affected and in other countries, they have received rescue packages, a stimulus of some sort to keep business going, but in our case, all that is not there.”

The MDC Alliance leader also criticised the reasoning behind a “blanket lockdown” instead of concentration on hotspots.

“Why lock down the whole country when we have hotspots? Why can’t we identify red zones rather than lockdown everything? What is clear is we have a planning and leadership crisis that allowed the festive season to be a super spreader without any action.”

Vendors Initiative for Social and Economic Transformation executive director Samuel Wadzai said though the lockdown was essential to save lives, the government had once again ignored the plight of informal traders.

“What is, however, of concern to us as an informal sector representative organisation is that there are no provisions for social protection for vulnerable groups of people such as our members in the informal sector,” he said.

“Clearly, the government has not drawn lessons from the first lockdown where much as they announced the existence of a cushioning fund, this did not benefit the majority of informal traders, amid reports that influential politicians and civil servants were the bulk of recipients. In the few cases where informal traders received this allowance, its value had long been eroded by inflation.

“As Viset, it is our well-considered view that lockdown measures should be implemented along with increased spending on health services and remuneration for our long-suffering health personnel and the introduction of a robust social protection scheme that has input of all informal sector representative groups, as a matter of urgency.”

United Kingdom-based analyst Alex Magaisa said Chiwenga’s announcement left a lot of gaps, an indication of lack of clear planning.

“I have read VP Chiwenga’s statement regarding the lockdown. There is nothing from the Health minister about the ongoing crisis at the hospitals and how the government is addressing it,” Magaisa said.