24 May 2021
The lockdown that never was
Yesterday was a Sunday, and it felt really awkward to be at home at the time of congregational worship. I decided to introspect and revise the terms of the lockdown imposed on Kwekwe. I discovered that the only things that have been locked down are the churches and the bars. Then we took a drive around the townships and discovered that all bottle stores and drinking places were open and it was business as usual, and the city centre and Mbizo & Amaveni high density surbubs were bustling with life. We saw mapostori coming down from their mountains of worship. In essence, only the formal registered churches with buildings have been locked down. Weddings are always so few as to have any impact on society at large. Remember there is already an order limiting gatherings to 50 people, be they church services, funerals, weddings or political gatherings. Further reducing funeral gatherings to 30 people does not make any difference, especially as no one goes to count the funeral crowds to enforce the laws.
As the MDC Alliance we believe strongly in data informed targeted lockdowns, as espoused by the people’s President Advocate Nelson Chamisa in January of this year. We do not seem to have compelling data for a lockdown in Kwekwe at the moment, with only twelve reported positive cases since the outbreak started on 09/05/2021, the last of which was on 14/05/2021. If the government had wanted to do a pre-emptive strike on this potentially disastrous outbreak, I think it should have been done on 09/05/2021 when the first cases tested positive, with the full knowledge that they had received a family member from India.
What is our advice to government now? Lift the lockdown on churches in Kwekwe and allow them to meet as before with a head count of 50 per service. Churches are the only institution affected by this latest lockdown. All the other measures can be left as they are because they are not a significant departure from what has already been pertaining.
Community surveillance and contact tracing are of the utmost importance for detecting any change in transmission. Our testing capacity must therefore be ramped up markedly. Quarantine of arrivals from India is a welcome move and we commend the government on taking this bold move. This means people must have serious business to do before they decide to travel from India to Zimbabwe. This is a necessary but time limited intervention, and everybody should comply without fear or favour. Regular random genomic sequencing of the circulating virus is necessary for future planning. We should not relax on health education to the population on masking up, social distancing, avoiding super spreader events like rallies that Mnangagwa had in Gokwe at the weekend, hand hygiene, cough etiquette, and seeking healthcare early. Government should go a gear up in giving technical information about the vaccines we are giving, both to the health workforce and to the general public. After giving the first dose to over 600000 people, the government should by now have published results of the vaccination campaign in terms of safety and efficacy. We are all waiting anxiously.
Finally, we encourage every Zimbabwean to stay safe and follow all the WHO recommended regulations to prevent the spread of Corona virus. Bear in mind that this is a terrible pandemic.
Dr. Henry Madzorera
Secretary for Health and Child Welfare