Opinion

Coronavirus: Need to revisit safety nets

The death of TV personality Zororo Makamba left many Zimbabweans dreading the Coronavirus that has claimed nearly 10,000 lives across the globe.

May his soul rest in peace.

In our last editorial comment we highlighted that Coronavirus is real and not many appreciated that at that stage.

A day after publication of this paper, Zimbabwe recorded its first Coronavirus case.

Governments across the globe including superpowers like the United States and China are grappling with the pandemic.

It’s a week since President Emmerson Mnangagwa declared the pandemic a national disaster and announced a package of extraordinary measures to combat this grave health emergency.

Since then, Mnangagwa has been making daily announcements informing the citizenry on new measures taken by government.

Natural disasters have often found Zimbabwe on the wrong side of the tracks.

In the past, outbreaks in cholera, for instance, have proven this.

While government has announced several measures to combat the respiratory ailment in line with World Health Organisation standards, the virus has exposed weaknesses in the country’s safety nets and public health system.

In this current edition of the Business Times were published a story on health workers threatening to down tools due to shortages of protective clothing.

It never rains but…

In South Africa, President Cyril Ramaphosa this week set up a Solidarity Fund to assist vulnerable groups affected by Coronavirus.

He also announced measures to help business.

Elsewhere, Australia’s central bank is poised to make a significant intervention in the market as the government applies the finishing touches to a second round of economic stimulus, badged as a multibillion-dollar “safety net” package.

Income support measures and urgent financial help for businesses affected by the coronavirus pandemic will be signed off by the government within days, as industry groups warn of a “dire” downward spiral that is already seeing job losses across the country.

The pandemic has exposed the gulf between the developed countries and developing nations, haves and have nots.

Back home, as many wake up to the realities of the pandemic, government should move away from politics of sloganeering to encouraging discourse that strengthens safety nets.

For years pensioners have been struggling to make a living out of their pay-outs.

And the story goes on.

Already, there are questions on Zimbabwe’s budget surplus when government is struggling to provide basic health care, hand sanitisers and test kits at healthcare facilities.

The fear of a possible lockdown has seen a stampede on basic commodities with prices rising.

For an ordinary Zimbabwean who is struggling to make ends meet, this is another burden.

For battered Zimbabweans sanitisers and face masks, which are recommended for containing the spread of the virus, have become luxuries.

A small bottle of hand sanitiser is being sold for ZWL$250.

A face mask is being sold for between ZWL$120 and ZWL$180.

These are huge figures only the haves do not blink an eye.

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