SENIOR STAFF WRITER
PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa has ordered police to tighten lockdown restrictions during the festive season, as authorities strive to curb the spread of Covid-19 in the country, the Daily News reports.
At the same time, Mnangagwa revealed that Zimbabwe was preparing to roll out the coronavirus vaccine, with the country among the first due to receive the much-needed antidote for the lethal virus.
This comes as there are growing concerns over the worsening indifference among ordinary people, with police saying recently that they would clamp down ruthlessly on errant commuter omnibus operators who were illegally ferrying passengers in violation of corona regulations that include physical distancing.
Delivering his State of the Nation Address at the weekend, Mnangagwa also urged Zimbabweans to co-operate with police as they enforce tougher lockdown restrictions during the Christmas and New Year holidays.
“Our law enforcement officials have stepped up enforcement of all Covid-19 orders in order to protect all of us. Let us all co-operate with them for our own safety.
“The biggest concern and danger to our national response is the fact that people are not complying with the current Covid-19 restrictions and preventive measures.
“Monitoring visits by the inter-ministerial task force (on corona) and others have clearly shown that most people, institutions and the general public are no longer strictly adhering to recommended preventative measures. Such complacency and recklessness are, therefore, a big concern to us,” Mnangagwa said.
“The country has recently witnessed large gatherings at funerals and other social events where there was no social distancing.
“Some of the reasons for the increase in new cases are … people not wearing face masks anymore … large gatherings with participants not adhering to recommended preventative measures such as social distancing.
“Today, I am urging you all to do the right thing. Wear a face mask to protect yourself and those around you,” Mnangagwa further implored Zimbabweans.
“Let us bear in mind that the government response alone is not enough without the meaningful participation of communities.
“Individuals and communities must take ownership, change behaviours and follow all the recommended preventative measures.
“This is the only way that will see our country win against the pandemic,” Mnangagwa added.
This comes as there are growing fears that the much-feared coronavirus second wave is increasingly becoming a reality in the country — after the lethal disease claimed the lives of 10 people in one weekend at the beginning of this month.
The surge in Covid-19 deaths came amid an alarming drop in discipline among ordinary people, prompting authorities to warn of tougher penalties against those who are disdainful of necessary public management measures of the lethal virus, including the wearing of face masks in public.
Zimbabwe has so far recorded 12 151 cases of the lethal virus, with 318 people succumbing to the respiratory disease since it was first reported in the country in March this year.
At the weekend, Mnangagwa also revealed that the country was preparing roll-out plans for the much-needed Covid-19 vaccine — but warned Zimbabweans to maintain their discipline until it had reached these shores.
“While a vaccine is the ultimate preventative measure, it is not available to us just yet.
“Preparations for the deployment of a vaccine, once approved, are however in progress, guided by two national preparedness assessments conducted in October and November 2020.
“Zimbabwe will only roll out vaccines that have been analysed and found to be effective and safe for our population.
“Zimbabwe is also participating in clinical trials and vaccine research to ensure that the country’s decision is guided by local science,” Mnangagwa said.
This also comes amid continuing warnings by health experts and other stakeholders that the government could struggle to contain a second Covid-19 wave, after the disease ravaged many schools in the run-up to their closure last week.
There was a sharp rise in the number of learners contracting the virus — with schools such John Tallach, Goromonzi High School, Waddilove and Chinhoyi High being forced to temporarily close their doors.
This prompted unions such as the Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (Artuz) to warn that more than 90 percent of schools in the country were at risk of spreading Covid-19, as most of them did not have adequate personal protective equipment (PPE).
“Most schools in the country are unsafe because of shortages of adequate supplies of sanitisers, health personnel in the schools and enough infrastructure to facilitate physical distancing during lessons and examinations.
“The implementation of standard of operation procedures (SOP) is being compromised, thereby making schools unsafe, and the prerequisite procedures for safely operating schools are absconded with about 75 percent of the inspected schools not fumigated yet after they were used as quarantine centres.
“We observed that the movement of learners from their respective homes, since they use their own transport to and from school, is not monitored — thereby increasing the spread of the virus.
“There is poor hygiene particularly in flush toilets because of inadequate supply of running water, especially in urban and peri-urban schools.
“All rural schools mostly use Blair toilets, but the schools can no longer afford to fumigate and sanitise the surfaces of the toilets,” Artuz said at the height Covid-19’s spread in schools.
Recently, doctors and nurses also raised alarm over the number of health workers who are contracting the lethal virus due to a lack of PPE.
This was after at least five nurses were said to have tested positive for the disease at Parirenyatwa Hospital in Harare.
Authorities have said 653 workers have been infected by coronavirus since its arrival in the country. All of them had recovered from the disease.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the coronavirus comes from a large family of viruses that cause illnesses ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases.
Its symptoms include pneumonia, high fever, flu, shortness of breath and diarrhoea — and the precautions that have to be taken include covering your mouth when coughing and sneezing, and continuously washing one’s hands.