30 January 2021.
Last week, the MDC Alliance published its first Weekly Health Alert focusing on the Super Spreaders. This initiative will see the party through its Health Department led by Dr. Henry Madzorera in conjunction with the Communications Department dialoguing with you, fellow citizens on COVID-19 related issues. This week we are looking at the Lockdown, it’s extension and what needs to be done now. Together we will defeat COVID-19.
THE LOCKDOWN: WHERE TO NOW?
Following the comprehensive policy statement given by the People’s President, Advocate Nelson Chamisa on Thursday, we just want to re-emphasize the already dealt with issue of the lockdown, especially seeing that it has now been extended by a further two weeks at level 4.
On Saturday 02/01/21 the Minister of Health & Childcare Rtd General Constantino Guveya Nyikadzino Chiwenga announced a strict lockdown and curfew for 30 days to curb the sudden upsurge in COVID-19 cases caused by the festive season’s inward migration of Zimbabweans, mainly from neighboring countries.
In the week preceding the lockdown, the country had experienced 1342 new cases and 29 deaths. This was alarmingly high. Now, in spite of the lockdown, cumulative cases have increased from 14491 since January 2nd, 2021, to 32646 on Thursday the 28th of January 2021, an increase of 18155. In the same period, deaths have increased from 377 to 1160, an increase of 783, all in 26 days! This is the definition of a catastrophe.
In themselves, these numbers do not mean the lockdown is not working, but they do mean we have a few serious things that we must do and there are tough decisions that government must make to flatten this curve. Whatever measures the government shall take must consider the welfare of the people, and the health of both the formal and informal sectors of the economy. Government must be alive to the fact that emergencies such as we are in are fertile ground for thieves and rogue elements in both society and government to flourish.
What is the lockdown expected to achieve?
The idea of the lockdown is to arrest transmission of the virus from person to person. This is achieved by identifying those who have the virus through testing, screening and isolating them till they are no longer shedding the virus. Keeping the people in their homes means we are reducing the population at risk from any unidentified positive case. Provision of high quality, time sensitive healthcare services must be maintained during the lockdown, both for COVID-19 patients and for other routine infectious and chronic non-communicable diseases. The pandemic has had the unfortunate effect of neglect of all the other usual conditions, and more people could easily die of these routine conditions than of COVID-19 sooner than later.
The lockdown is also expected to protect the elderly and those with other co-morbidities. Government must monitor and report on certain key indicators to determine if we are making progress. Percentage of population tested and proportion that is positive, together with total number of deaths are good measures of progress. We must have a way of measuring the “happiness index” of our people particularly regarding our health care delivery system during this pandemic.
HOW HAVE WE FARED SO FAR?
Testing and isolation has been our major deficiency in this pandemic. We don’t compare at all to our neighbors and the international community. This is the major intervention that will flatten our curve. We do hope the two week extension of level 4 lockdown will be accompanied by serious testing and isolation, particularly in the known hot spots, and that any future lockdowns will be targeted, not blanket lockdowns.
There have been absolutely no social safety nets for particular vulnerable groups like informal sector workers, the elderly and the poor. Ailing companies have not received any bailouts with consequent high levels of job losses. Super spreader events have been allowed to flourish. One notable super spreader is the crowded Zupco buses. Government must with immediate effect liberalise the transport system to reduce congestion in buses.
Monopolies of that nature create avenues of corruption for beaurocrats and politicians, and other rogue elements in society. Government has failed to establish COVID-19 treatment and admission facilities in most cities. People needing basic care are dying at home because of lack of such care, including simple oxygen supplementation. This is an urgent matter.
1. Make the best use of this two week extension. Intensify testing and isolation. Gather decent prevalence and incidence data and monitor progress scientifically. Consider targeted localized lockdowns in next phase, informed by data.
2. Set up free testing centres easily accessible to all citizens, in urban and rural areas.
3. Open up space for inclusive national dialogue and response.
4. Fulfill government’s promise and obligation to give food and sustenance to vulnerable populations.
5. Deal with corruption and recover all ill-gotten wealth that belongs to the people.
6. Deal with all super spreaders, particularly Zupco buses and prisons. Give people their rights & freedoms, guarantee security of persons, and show goodwill to all humanity. We are ALL in the same cooking pot, and we need each other now more than ever.
7. Re-think government expenditure and divert funds to the fight against COVID-19.
8. Upgrade the health delivery system, including water and sanitation hygiene.
9. Kit up our frontline healthcare workers with adequate Personal Protective Equipment that instills confidence.
10. Urgently work on a vaccination policy and rollout plan. Inform citizens to instill hope.
Dr H Madzorera
Secretary for Health & Child Welfare,