Avoid another lockdown at any cost

BY NEVANJI MADANHIRE

Sentiment emanating from industry and commerce poignantly points to the fact that Zimbabwe cannot afford to go into another Covid-19-induced lockdown. All sectors of our economy agree with this and some have gone further to quantify the aggregate losses that they incurred as a direct result of the two lockdowns Zimbabwe went through.

The enormity of the situation seems to be blurred in the minds of many. But those who care to give even a cursory glance at the picture will see how all sectors were forced to lay off staff to cope with the situation engendered by reduced production and paltry spending power which meant money was not circulating enough to keep the gears of industry running. Economic sectors were hit differently but the common denominator was that no one was spared.

Urbanites speak of other pains they cannot afford to suffer again: the boredom of long hours spent at home and the inability to mix and mingle with their neighbours as was always their wont. They also know how they were hit economically by the prohibition of activities most which they depended on to supplement their incomes. Most people living in the low-income suburbs survive on a hand-to-mouth basis, thousands of them earning their keep through vending. Lockdowns saw these activities curtailed or criminalised altogether.

It is therefore to everyone’s interest that lockdowns be avoided at any cost.
But there is an all-pervasive lull that has descended upon people right round. This comes out of the myth that Zimbabwe has somehow escaped the worst of Covid-19 compared to other countries in the region. The figures are deceptively low but what people forget is that our testing system is woefully inadequate; it seems only the dead and those who pitch up at health facilities are tested. This gives a false sense of security.

The picture is much worse than people are made to believe. The surge in the numbers of schoolchildren who have recently tested positive for the coronavirus is staggering. Many theories suggest that the fact that our population can be classified as youthful is the reason why cases have remained low. But there are issues we have refused or neglected to learn about the new waves that have affected other countries.

After the first wave, India snoozed because the country thought they had weathered the storm rather well, indeed they had considering only a minuscule percentage of their 1,4 billion population had got the virus. But like Zimbabweans, Indians had not factored in that the virus is always mutating. Zimbabwe’s youthful population might as well have fared rather well in the first and second waves but no one knows which variants will attack next.

In India they are now talking of a double-mutant strain which they are grappling with, whose danger is that it may carry additional mutations which may prove difficult to contain.
Avoiding another lockdown is, therefore, everyone’s business; but how should it be done?

The starting point is that it’s every individual’s responsibility to ensure that it never happens. Besides the normal basic issues of masking up, keeping social distances and practicing personal hygiene such as hand washing, every individual by now must have seen the necessity of vaccination.

This point cannot be stressed enough. The government has done its bit and no one has any idea what could trigger the third wave. In India it was very likely that annual festival where they deep in the Ganges which brought together 14 million people at a go. In Zimbabwe it could be that small pub where intransigent people gather over the weekend for a beer.