Government told to review 100-people crowd limit and put nation on lockdown

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Zimbabweans have called upon Government to enforce strict social distancing procedures and reduce the maximum number of people allowed to congregate to a figure much smaller than the 100 announced last week by President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

The President last week declared Covid-19 a State of National Disaster and postponed major social events including the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair (ZITF), the 40th Independence Day celebrations, religious and public gatherings of more than 100 people for the next 60 days.

While Mozambique which recorded its first COVID-19 case yesterday enforces a maximum number of 50 people, Zimbabweans who spoke to Zimbabwe Voice called for an even smaller number, saying it’s better to implement much tighter measures now – including a lockdown – than try to do so when the damage is already done.

“The thing about the 100-people crowd limit is that it does not say anything about the size of the space accommodating them. 100 people in a 50 square metre room is different from 100 people in a 500 square metre facility, so how does social distancing work in these different circumstances?” said a citizen asked by Zimbabwe Voice over the weekend.

Social distancing in action. Is it possible aboard ZUPCO buses?

Others called for the public transport system to completely shut down, saying that the rules of social distancing do not apply once one is aboard a bus or commuter omnibus to work.

It is common to see snaking queues at ZUPCO bus termini, while the buses themselves have people packed in the aisles.

“Why do we have the ZUPCO buses and kombis still on the road, in any case?” Martin, another Harare resident, asked.

“This government tends to want to always react instead of being proactive. People are dying sad deaths in Italy and elsewhere, and we as sub-Saharan Africans have had ample time to prepare and learn from others. I just pray the worst does not befall us.”

Mrs. Alice Sibanda, a vendor in Silobela, said Government may not have manpower and financial resources to monitor strict adherence to

“It’s not about what the government thinks. It’s about you as an individual summing up what is being said by government and then protecting yourself and loved ones and society. I cringe at the sight of people lining up on their way to churches against advice. Do we have enough police resources to monitor every church?

“Sometimes we as adults should monitor ourselves. Humans can sometimes be their own worst enemy,” she said, speaking on Sunday as people streamed past her market stalls on their way to church.

Mrs. Sibanda also urged government to reconsider the decision to let schools run till Tuesday, adding that the coronavirus does not know deadlines and is already a clear and present danger.

Robbie Madziva, a cellphone dealer in Harare, was torn between going to work and staying home with no food for his family.

“I am unsure what to do. One thought says I need to go and work, another says if I get the virus and die, who will work for my family? If I stay home, what do I feed them either? We have tough choices to make, but I guess it’s safer to stay home and scrounge for help from relatives and neighbors.

“While we are on this, I want to understand why this magical figure of 100 persons? The figure 100 appeared a very big exponential one for me, especially given we work from public spaces in crowded streets. Is there any scientific ormedical reason for 100. Germany is saying two people maximum.”

Brian Mangwende, writing on social media, said: “Surely there has to be basis for the figure with the goal in mind. 100 is too big a number with regards to spreading of Coronavirus. It’s better to implement tight measures (lockdown) now than when the damage is already done. We know our medical facilities and personnel can’t cope.”

Meanwhile, police say they will be conducting patrols and spot checks to enforce the Covid-19-induced ban on large gatherings as Government deliberates on measures to encourage social distancing.

To stop the spread of coronavirus, officials are encouraging the public to practice social distancing — staying home, avoiding crowds, keeping two metres apart during gatherings and refraining from touching one another.

The country still has two recorded cases of corona virus cases and social distancing, experts say, is the best way to avoid new cases.

National police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi yesterday said complying with the regulations is meant to protect every citizen from contracting coronavirus.

Yesterday, some members of the country were lobbying for Government to totally ban all public gatherings regardless of size to minimise the risk of the virus spreading in the country.

This was observed after some religious organisations and bars defied Government’s directive that the gathering of 100 and more people be suspended.

Members of the public said as long as there were no punitive measures for those defying the directive, some citizens will continue to act recklessly.

“From what you are saying, that there are some churches who had 100 or more members for services today. We will conduct investigations and where appropriate the necessary measures will be put up. But what is important is for church leaders and other institutions to comply not for their own interest but the benefit of their members,” said Asst Comm Nyathi.

He said cops are also on high alert to arrest border jumpers as they can also expose the country to unrecorded cases.

Local Government and Public Works Minister July Moyo said Government is set to evaluate compliance to implemented measures before taking further action.

“This is a decision that needs to be done collectively. It cannot be announced by a single department.

We await, for further discussions that are led by the President. There will be appraisals of what has happened so far. But I thought when the President discouraged the gathering of more than 100 people it was going to be adhered to, because not doing so is very bad,” said the Minister.

Health and Child Care Ministry Permanent Secretary Dr Agnes Mahomva said her ministry as the technical department in addressing Covid-19, will take up public suggestions.

She said some of the suggestions would be forwarded to Cabinet for possible adoption. “That is what they are thinking and we like those suggestions as they come as wider as they might be. We look at them, we consider them, we give guidance and that technical guidance is taken up.

“Cabinet looks at it and comes up with final Government decision on what Zimbabwe will do. Again, it speaks to us working collaboratively as a team not the Ministry of Health alone.

“We are the technical arm of Government when it comes to health and its consolidated looking at other aspects. Those suggestions are very welcome they actually help us craft whatever guidance that is required that is looked at,” she said.

Dr Mahomva said other Government departments have to play their part to ensure that the public complies with directives meant to curb the spread of Covid-19.

“Once something is declared there is division of labour in terms of enforcing the rule of the law in Zimbabwe. So, there are other players who will look at that. We give technical guidance in term of what is needed to be done when it comes to public health disaster like this, as the President declared,” said Dr Mahomva.

“We will continue encouraging other ministries that we are working with to also ramp up what they need to do. Working to ensure that we are working in collaboration, supporting each other because it’s a national issue. As long as it’s a national issue, it means the task goes beyond the Ministry of Health and Child Care.”

Two coronavirus cases have been recorded in the country so far with the first patient testing positive in Victoria Falls on Friday and the other in Harare on Saturday.

In the Ministry of Health and Child Care daily update yesterday, Dr Mahomva said the two confirmed Covid-19 patients are recovering in a stable condition.

“As was previously reported, the first case is showing signs of recovery and is being managed under self-isolation at home. The second case continues to be managed under isolation at Wilkins Hospital and is stable,” said Dr Mahomva.

“Seven contacts of the second case have so far been identified and followed up, and the remaining 11 are still being followed-up. Samples have been collected from the seven contacts identified so far and 4 results received so far have tested negative for Covid-19. The Ministry will continue with intensified surveillance to detect any potential cases early and limit further spread of Covid-19.”

Globally, the deaths from coronavirus stand at over 14,700 while total infections top 336,000. Nearly 100,000 have recovered from the infections.

– ZiMetro (Additional content from The Chronicle)

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