ZIMBABWE may be forced into another lockdown, if Covid-19 cases continue to rise at the current rate.
The chief coordinator for the National Response to the Covid-19 pandemic in the Office of the President and Cabinet Agnes Mahomva said this in court papers supporting a ban on elections in Zimbabwe.
She was responding to a challenge against Vice-President and Health minister Constantino Chiwenga’s Statutory Instrument 225A of 2020 indefinitely suspending by-elections citing Covid-19 regulations.
The Election Resource Centre (ERC), the Women’s Academy for Leadership (Walpe) and six other applicants have gone to court to challenge the Health minister’s order suspending elections. The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission and President Emmerson Mnangagwa are cited as respondents in the application.
The country is supposed to hold by-elections for over 20 parliamentary seats and 170 local government wards to replace mostly MDC Alliance MPs and councillors recalled by MDC-T interim leader Thokozani Khupe.
Although lobby groups have accused Chiwenga of violating the Constitution by suspending elections when countries such as the US and Tanzania, among others, have successfully conducted polls during the pandemic, Mahomva said it was not possible to hold by-elections in December because of Covid-19 fears.
She said cases of Covid-19 had risen since the government relaxed regulations to curb the spread that included opening of the tourism sector and resuming domestic flights.
“Whether directly or indirectly as a result of these new relaxations, the infection rate has started to go up,” Mahomva said. “While the growth may be marginal at this stage, it has the potential to spike upwards in a manner which might not be foreseen.”
She added: “It may be that more enforcement of existing measures is required as well, but certainly should there be a sudden spike like that experienced around July 2020, then there might be need for more stringent measures such as those which are being re-introduced in Europe and the Americas.”
Some European countries have been forced back into lockdown as Covid-19 cases rise.
Mahomva said the period around December 2020 would be one of the decisive phases in the country’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“As such, I urge against any measures which may create uncontrolled gatherings, whether small or large, throughout the country. Such gatherings will be inimical to the country’s efforts to contain the spread of the virus and have the potential to result in high death rates,” she said.
“I, therefore, give it as my opinion as aforesaid that it is not advisable to hold by-elections on December 5, 2020 as this may create uncontrolled gatherings, whether small or large, throughout the country. The events surrounding the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic are moving in a direction which justifies my position…”
She said in August, a team of global scientists from the World Health Organisation, the Africa Centre for Diseases Control and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine conducted a survey on Zimbabwe’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic and their conclusion was that the country had successfully delayed the pandemic due to implementation of stringent public health and social measures enacted into law in March 2020 including a lockdown.
Last week, experts said the world was staring at a second wave of Covid-19 that could kill thousands in the country if regulations on social distancing and proper masking up were not observed.
Health and Child Care deputy minister John Mangwiro yesterday told The Standard that a possible second wave of Covid-19 would be harder to deal with than the initial outbreak.