Opinion

On a wing and a prayer

Zimbabwe has entered a frightening stage in terms of new Covid-19 cases and fatalities. 

The virus has shown no signs of abating despite the Ministry of Health and Child Care decreeing a 6pm to 6am curfew and the suspension of operations by non-essential businesses for 30 days. 

New cases have been spiking since the beginning of the year.

From January 1 up to Tuesday, Zimbabwe had recorded 18,110 new cases which is more than half the 28,675 cumulative cases recorded since March last year.

The first 19 days have been fatal with deaths at 462, a number which is more than half the 825 cumulative deaths recorded since March.

It is clear the virus will be with us for a long time. The national recovery rate has fallen to 62.2% from a high 81.1% as at December 31.  

What is required now is a holistic approach on how the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic can be mitigated.

It is one thing to decree that non-essential businesses and the informal sector should suspend operations for 30 days effective January 5.

It is another to determine how people in those sectors are surviving following the ban in line with government’s measures to stem the spread of Covid-19.

For local firms already reeling from high utility costs, power and foreign currency shortages, Covid-19 came as a hammer blow. 

There are indications the lockdown will be extended judging by the number of new cases and fatalities which means more troubles for those sectors.

For formal businesses, they won’t be operating for a month but will nonetheless scrounge for resources to pay salaries.

This is due to the fact they value employees as a key resource. Companies will still pay for services like rentals and utility bills.

When they reopen, the same companies are supposed to fork out US$60 on each employee for Covid-19 tests.

The tests should be done regularly.

Government passed on that burden to the companies.

By now, the ministry of Finance would have announced some tax breaks to cushion these businesses, whose only crime is that they are operating in sectors deemed non-essential by the ministry of Health and Child Care.

That cushion will go a long way in alleviating their plights.  For informal businesses, it will be a tall order to put food on tables as they eat what they would have killed. 

With the economy turning informal, tens of thousands of families won’t have their source of income for 30 days, which can be extended unless the new cases taper off. 

In a tweet this week, an executive said there was need to put the right lenses in the response to Covid-19. She tweeted: “Those with comorbidities are at high risk and should they contract Covid, it might kill them hence extra care to protect them. How about the impact of Covid on an economy with underlying conditions?

What lenses are we using to factor this in our response?” 

The economy requires a comprehensive package to cushion against the effects of Covid-19.

 It seems companies and individuals are on their own and have to carry the burden.

We are on a wing and a prayer. 

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