HEALTH Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) have welcomed government’s move to extend the lockdown but warned against instituting measures that could negatively affect the vulnerable and the country’s highly informalised economy.
By Michael Gwarisa
In an interview with HalthTimes, Community Working Group on Health (CWGH) executive director, Mr Itai Rusike said the lockdown extension was a welcome move given the spike in new Covid-19 cases and there was no room for wishful thinking when dealing with a global health pandemic.
We need to remain vigilant and fully prepared to deal with the conditions rocking the developed countries that have advanced health care systems and are better resourced than us but we have seen the damage that has been inflicted by COVID-19 in countries such as the USA, UK, Spain and Italy where tens of thousands have perished in a matter of weeks.
“The government should also seriously consider the impact and relevance of an indefinite lockdown to a Zimbabwean economic context that is highly informalised with the majority of the people working for their daily bread,” said Mr Rusike.
He added that Zimbabwe was hoping for a lockdown extension strategy that needs to be regularly and actively reviewed against reality and that is likely to change as we learn more about the pandemic.
“The President should consult widely and get a lot more evidence before making a decision on the lockdown. Decision making should also be informed by people with relevant expertise, experience and facts on the ground.
“Zimbabwe is yet to address the concerns of its population on access to adequate safe water, sufficient ZUPCO buses, shortage of PPE for the frontline health workers, and generally lack of health education, Information and awareness campaigns especially in the rural areas. The country needs to invest and strengthen its capabilities for case and community testing, the coverage of testing against public health targets.”
He also said in the absence of a vaccine, the general public should be encouraged to continue practicing high levels of personal hygiene such as handwashing with soap and running water, continue observing social distancing measures, use of sanitizers and observing the WHO recommended practices when sneezing or coughing.
“What is happening in the townships and some rural areas should be stopped where some people are behaving as if Covid-19 is only found in the city center and this situation has also not been well managed by the police manning roadblocks who make it very difficult for one to get into the city center whilst giving a free passage for those going to the residential areas. The government should seriously consider subsidizing the COVID-19 preventive materials such as facemasks and sanitizers as these products are beyond the reach of many.”
Mneahwile, Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) Programme Manager for Special Projects and Healp Policy Expert, Mr Tinashe Mundawarara said the extension of lockdown was a necessary step for suppression of covid-19 but should be clear on what it is they intend to achieve by the indefinite lockdown.
“However we should be able to answer the question.” What are the objectives and milestones that need to be achieved in the next two weeks etc?” The government should be open to the people and explain with clarity what indefinite extension means and what the two week reviews mean in terms of progress on suppression, testing and preparations for arresting community infections. :It’s two weeks of people sitting at home but it should also be two weeks of central government working hard to suppress covid 19 and put in place mechanisms to prevent a disease rebound
“Preventing community infections should be of paramount importance. Most countries affected by covid-19 have gone through this phase of community infections and it needs careful planning, strategies and resources. Focus should be on preventing community spread. That’s the brief for central government but I believe communities should emerge as key stakeholders in the prevention and suppression matrix of covid-19 disease control,” said Mr Mundawarara.
He added the extended lockdown should have government expanding and investing in assets and infrastructure needed for the manufacturing and production of important goods like masks, gloves and medicines.
“These are critical tools for suppression and they should be given for free to the public and at cost to private hospitals. This is the time for government to mitigate the cost of covid-19 response through public investments as private players are expensive and manipulative.