The Zimbabwean President Emmerson announced a lockdown for the Southern African nation 2 days after South Africa announced its own lockdown which started on the 26th of March following a sharp rise in new Covid-19 cases.
Zimbabwe was forced to go into lockdown after Covid-19 claimed the lives of 2 people proving that the country was not prepared for this pandemic. The nation was reluctant to go under lockdown due to a number of pre assumptions like the virus does not affect black people, the virus not affecting African nations and the least expected comment from the country’s Minister of Defense who said that Covid-19 was a punishment on the West for imposing sanctions on Zimbabwe.
The first death reported being from Coronavirus exposed the fragility of the nation’s health system. According to reports, the only hospital that was being said to be prepped for the virus (Wilkins Hospital) did not have, not only ventilators but also sockets, which is highly surprising. Zororo Makamba, first death due to Covid-19 was well connected and coming from a family of wealth but failed to get the necessary help from the hospital and even had to purchase his own personal ventilator.
This leaves the question, What kind of service is the average person going to get and not to mention those without health insurance or even enough money to get themselves to public hospitals.
Zimbabwe is said to have 16 ventilators and one hospital. Initially, Wilkins Hospital was dedicated to attending to Covid-19 patients but was forced to go under renovations and Beatrice infectious Hospital was then assigned to this task. With a population of 14.65 million, the capacity is not enough for even a single city to attend to patients. Doctors and nurses have been reported to be evading their duties to save themselves from catching the virus as basic protective wear is not enough. “We have made a call for safety, to say whilst we are sorting out some things, for now, let’s… withdraw our services temporarily,” Tapiwa Mungofa, treasurer of the Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association (ZHDA), told reporters in Harare.
The preexisting shortages of water even in the capital city (Harare) therefore there is no way people are going to be washing their hands every chance they get. People would rather save the water to drink later rather than wash their hands because they struggle every day to get water in some urban areas. Hand sanitizer can be used as a substitute for water, yes but at a cost of at least 7usd which is equivalent to 300bond notes for a 200ml bottle. Using the salary of the lowest-paid civil servant as per the statement released by the Zimbabwe Teachers association 2500 bond notes which is equivalent to 64 USD. Hand sanitizer will find its way to the bottom of the grocery list. Due to these factors, a large chunk of the population might not be able to maintain strict levels of hygiene.
The Zimbabwean economy is close to non-existant and the inflation has skyrocketed. A loaf of bread is $30, a bar of soap is $19.39 and a 2kg packet of rice is $94. It is a public secret that due to the levels of unemployment in the country the economy is more informal than formal ever since vendors were given permission to go into the streets to sell. The informal sector holds 95% of the working population, therefore it is going to be the most affected by this lockdown. Privileged households survive on a check to check basis whilst most households survive on a daily earnings basis where a day off from work means no food on the table. Those that are employed can not even afford to buy food that is enough for 21 days not to mention electrical bills.
Other countries have facilitated the freezing of mortgage payments and even given money to their citizens but the Zimbabwean government has to date only gave their citizens the right to trade using the USD they are in possession of. The government banned the use of other currencies but expects people to start trading in USD which they didn’t provide them with and they claim its a measure to fight the virus.
The army will be deployed to the streets so the people will stay at home but for how long? Who will sit at home watching their family starve?