A DISTRAUGHT Acting President Constantino Chiwenga yesterday called on Zimbabweans to unite and work together to contain the raging coronavirus which continues to infect and kill dozens of people every day.
Speaking in Harare at the burial of the late Cabinet ministers Joel Biggie Matiza and Sibusiso Busi Moyo, as well as retired Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services boss Paradzai Zimondi, Chiwenga also said “only God knows the day that it (Covid-19) will end”.
The VP, who is also the country’s Health and Child Care minister, further warned that this was not the time for Zimbabweans to be complacent as “Covid-19 has taught us an important lesson that we are all mortals”.
This comes as the virulent respiratory disease has killed more than 600 people in the past three weeks alone, highlighting the humungous task that authorities have in curbing its further spread in the country.
“The country has witnessed in the past three or so weeks a surge in the new Covid-19 variant which has claimed the lives of many of our citizens, including the three national heroes.
“We were here a few days ago to bury fellow comrades Morton Malianga and Ellen Gwaradzimba.
“One would expect that when tragedy strikes it would gradually subside, but this has not been the case with the pandemic as it is still fearfully with us and only God knows the day that it will end,” the emotional Chiwenga said while speaking at the National Heroes’ Acre yesterday.
“Yes, it (Covid-19) is not a stroll in the park. What is crucial at this stage is to share a collective identity as a people with a rich diversity, paying special attention to our beliefs, affiliations and values.
“The time is up for that unity in diversity to be viewed as strength and not as a weakness. Covid-19 has taught us an important lesson that we are all mortals.
“The fight against this pandemic does not allow us to choose who to walk with, work with or run with. It does not discriminate between the powerful and the weak, the privileged and the deprived, the haves and the have-nots.
“It is a ruthless juggernaut that leaves a trail of despair and desperation, but we will eventually conquer it and prevail as a people,” Chiwenga said further.
The powerful VP, who as a former military supremo worked with Moyo and Zimondi, said the government was committed to fulfilling the aspirations of all Zimbabweans, including the departed heroes — to ensure that the health of citizens was guaranteed.
“The government is already in the process of acquiring the necessary vaccines for this pandemic. Let us continue to observe the laid down protocols as stipulated by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and our national laws.
“I wish to reiterate the need to always mask up, sanitise and maintain social distance. These are the key imperatives in this fight against the pandemic and they have no substitute,” he added.
This comes as the government has escalated its efforts to procure much-needed vaccines, which President Emmerson Mnangagwa says will be imported into the country as soon as possible — to curb the local spread of the killer virus.
On Monday, the country recorded its worst daily fatalities toll to date, with 70 people succumbing to the disease — and surpassing the previous high of 60 fatalities that was recorded two weeks ago.
Of concern to both authorities and health experts is the fact that the Covid-19 death toll has more than trebled over the past three weeks — jumping from a total of 369 fatalities which were registered between March last year and January 1 this year, to a worrying 1 103 deaths as of yesterday.
Zimbabwe is set to receive at least three million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine as part of the WHO-led Covax programme.
Apart from WHO, Russia and China have also approached the government about supplying vaccines to tackle the Covid-19 drumfire in the country.
Last week, Mnangagwa said the government had engaged countries that had developed vaccines to ensure that Zimbabwe got enough doses to administer to as many people as possible.
“Help is on the way. Your government is doing all it can to ensure our nation is defended and protected,” he said, adding that frontline health workers would be the first to get the doses.
“Once we receive the vaccine, and it will be quite soon, they (health workers) will be the first ones to be inoculated,” Mnangagwa added.
The second wave coronavirus storm has been so devastating that the country’s major hospitals are now struggling to deal with the high numbers of patients battling the deadly respiratory disease, who require admission.
In addition to being unable to take more patients, stretched private hospitals are also charging hefty fees which are beyond the reach of the majority — with some of them demanding anything between US$1 500 and US$10 000 upfront from patients for admissions only.
Meanwhile, authorities have tightened the screws on people violating the current stay-at-home order, which includes a dusk-to-dawn curfew.
This comes after the government announced a new set of fines on Monday — as it battles to curb soaring coronavirus deaths and infections in the country, including hefty penalties for not wearing masks in public and breaching the current dusk-to-dawn curfew.
Under the new fines, those who are caught not wearing a mask or not properly covering their face will be liable to a $5 000 fine — up from the previous $500 which was set in March last year when the government introduced the first hard coronavirus lockdown.
The new fines include a jaw-dropping $1,6 million penalty for the highest level offence, and kick-in at a time that police are grappling with increasing cases of people contravening Covid-19 regulations that were imposed by authorities to mitigate the pandemic.
Police have so far arrested nearly 400 000 people for Covid-19 violations since March 2020.
“Level one, two and three offences now attract fines of $1 000, $2 000 and $5 000. Fines go up to level 14 which attracts a $1 600 000 fine,” authorities said in a government gazette on Monday.
Level one to three offenders will pay deposit fines at police stations. They include cases such as common assault and public consumption of alcohol. Level four to 14 offences are handled by the courts.