Zimbabwe Extends Lockdown, Dusk-to-Dawn Curfew Amid Surge in COVID19 Cases

Public health experts in Zimbabwe say the country’s extension of a lockdown that includes a 12-hour, dusk-to-dawn curfew to thwart a recent swell in COVID19 cases and deaths will not yield much without adequate equipping of the country’s health care system.  The coronavirus has infected nearly 33,000 — and two-thirds of its 1,178 deaths are from January alone according to official figures. The lockdown extension comes as the country says it is struggling to detect new highly contagious – and probably more lethal – variants of coronavirus.Calvin Fambirai, the executive director of the Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights, said his organization welcomed the two-week extension of the lockdown and a 12-hour, dusk-to-dawn curfew by President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government.“It was going to be illogical to relax the measures, considering the background of increased daily mortality and incidence rates of COVID-19 as compared to the pre-January levels,” said Fambirai. “However, we think that there is need to complement the lockdown with one, expanding testing, case surveillance, and isolation of confirmed cases, secondly, there is need for expansion of health sector capacity to respond to severe disease of COVID-19 in order to minimize mortality, and thirdly there is need for an accelerated approach to nationwide vaccination.”Banana vendor Brian Mutera says he is yet to receive government assistance promised last March, unlike the situation in other countries worldwide, Harare, Jan. 30, 2021. (Columbus Mavhunga/VOA)Those most affected by the extension of the lockdown are informal traders, who constitute the country’s largest sector of employment. Most of them – like Brian Mutera – say they have yet to receive government assistance promised last March, unlike the situation in other countries worldwide. Consequently, he hangs around these shops selling vegetables despite government calls for him to stay at home.“During this lockdown everyone is not wanted in town. We do hand-to-mouth living and it’s unfortunate,” said Mutera. “In this Third World we are in Zimbabwe, there is death and life. I am here, I am dicing OK? with death. But I cannot be home. I have two children to look after. I have to come to the shops [to sell vegetables]. In developed world, government[s] are paying [handouts]. The situation of our economy, everybody knows. It’s unfortunate. We just pray to the Lord that we have to get a vaccine or something all over Southern Africa.”  On Friday, Chiwenga — who doubles as Zimbabwe’s health minister — said the country was in the process of acquiring coronavirus vaccine. A health official earlier this week told a parliamentary committee that China and Russia were among countries that had offered to supply Zimbabwe with the vaccine. 

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