No room for complacency

The numbers for new Covid-19 cases and deaths are coming down mainly due to lockdown measures instituted last month to curtail the respiratory disease.

The measures include a 6pm to 6am curfew, ban on churches, bars and nightclubs and the suspension of operation of the informal sector and the non-essential businesses. 

The measures have paid off as the national recovery rate has risen to 84.2% on Tuesday from under 60% in January, the bloodiest month since the first case of Covid-19 was detected in March last year.

The government announced on Tuesday that it would receive the 200,000 doses donated by China by February 15 and the first batch of procured vaccines in the first week of March.

The initial consignment will cater for frontline workers, the elderly and other vulnerable groups in Zimbabwe, it said.

There are discussions to also buy the Russian vaccine Sputnik and India has also offered to donate some doses of its own vaccine and an option for Zimbabwe to purchase commercially, according to a post Cabinet statement issued on Tuesday.

Zimbabwe has also submitted an expression of interest to participate under the African Union vaccines programme.

The government said the private sector would render support and will retain half of what they would have procured for its employees.

These developments are coming as the extended lockdown comes to an end February 15 (Monday).

There is temptation on the part of the government to relax the lockdown measures basing on the increase in recovery rate and drop in new cases.

However, the number of fatalities is still on the high side.

Whereas, the number of deaths was averaging above 20 last month, it has now come down, but one life lost, is one too many.

Zimbabwe has travelled that road before when it threw away the reins thinking Covid-19 had been defeated.

The limit on gatherings had no enforcer and Zimbabwe paid the price as the gatherings became super spreaders with the Ministry of Health and Childcare last month declaring that Zimbabwe was a Covid-19 hotspot as local transmissions took centre stage.

For the government, there is pressure from several constituencies.

Non-essential businesses will knock on the government’s doors so that they are allowed to resume operations.

There will be pressure from the informal sector, which has become Zimbabwe’s largest employer since the collapse of the manufacturing sector over a decade ago.

Experts say 95% of the economy has been informalised.

The absence of proper safety nets will force the government to buckle under pressure from these constituencies.

The education sector lost three months last year. In 2021, it has already lost a month, and counting.

There are fears the sector has been weakened, more so in the wake of the government’s failure to roll out e-learning in schools.

Students in private schools are doing classes online, leaving government, mission and rural schools waiting for the reopening of schools.

Indications point to the fact that Zimbabwe is not yet ready to throw away the reins in the absence of the vaccines.

The government has to make a tough choice. Should it reopen the economy in the wake of declining new cases?

Should it maintain the current lockdown until Zimbabwe has vaccinated 60% of the population to attain herd immunity?

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