THE Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition (CiZC) rejects the knee-jerk, irrational and unscientific imposition of adjusted national lockdown regulations under Statutory Instrument 267 of 2021. This follows the recent discovery of the Omicron variant, first detected in South Africa and Botswana.
As part of the measures, a daily curfew was imposed from 9pm to 6am, while shops were directed to open for business from 7am and close by 7pm.
The regulations also require all returning residents and visitors to undergo PCR testing and those found to be negative will be quarantined at their own cost for 10 days, while those who are found positive will be isolated in accordance with the provisions of the principal order.
These regulations are the clearest yet sign that government is using the cover the COVID-19 pandemic to push an ulterior agenda which we strongly believe to be centred on its quest to stifle free and legitimate operations of citizens trying to recover from the effects of the same pandemic on their livelihoods.
The latest regulations were initially announced by President Emmerson Mnangagwa on November 30, 2021 ostensibly to avert threats of a fourth wave in Zimbabwe.
While we appreciate government’s efforts at containing the pandemic as prescribed in the latest World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines on handling the new Omicron variant, we are concerned that the new measures are disproportionate to our situation as a country and seem not based on any scientific logic.
The latest WHO recommendations on the new variant encourage authorities to enhance surveillance and genomic sequencing efforts and urge them to continue reminding communities and individuals to continue adhering to the “tried and tested” protocols already in use.
The latest regulations are surprising given that the government’s post-cabinet briefings of November 16 and 30, 2021 assured the nation that the COVID-19 pandemic was “under control” in the country following several days with few or no reported deaths and few new infections.
The Zimbabwe Association for Doctors for Human Rights is in agreement with government’s assessment based on the fact that the national positive rate in the last three to four weeks has been less than 2,5%.
WHO ratings project that a positive rate of more than 5% signifies a pandemic out of control and anything below 5% is a well-controlled pandemic.
Ironically, WHO and health experts are reportedly convinced that the new strain is “super mild” and has, so far, not led to a surge in COVID-19 death rates anywhere in southern Africa, urging countries to drop travel restrictions and end the mass hysteria associated with the new Omicron variant.
Additionally, Zimbabwe has been singled out as one of the few African countries that has implemented a successful COVID-19 response strategy that has been applauded by the WHO.
Given the devastating impact of COVID-19 on the economy as well as the livelihoods of many of our citizens, the latest measures are surprising as they peg back the nation from realising a quick recovery to the pandemic-induced economic backslide.
Unemployment in Zimbabwe is estimated at over 90%, with many citizens relying on the informal economy to sustain their livelihoods. It is these citizens who will face the brunt of these unjustified regulations.
The limiting of operating times for business will affect actors in both the formal and informal economic sectors, which will inevitably peg back any economic recovery efforts.
We would have expected the government to be concentrating on ramping up its vaccination drive, which has gradually stalled and is way behind projected targets.
Getting herd immunity through vaccination has been identified as one of the quickest ways of ensuring full opening up of the economy so that citizens can return to their normal life routines and secure their livelihoods.
We are worried that enforcement of COVID-19 regulations has often been used as cover for gross rights violations with the army and police brutalising citizens for violating the regulations.
Since March 2020, it has become quite apparent that COVID-19 regulations in Zimbabwe have been used to entrench authoritarian rule and violate citizens’ fundamental rights through the imposition of restrictions without proper any justified scientific basis. -CiZC