By Wisdom Mumera
After weeks of public contempt at the slow pace of response to Covid-19 President Mnangagwa finally decreed a 21day lockdown from Monday but questions have already arisen on the practicality of the plan.
A High Sounding Nothing
The whole scheme appears premised on the assumption that once people are locked away from each other the Coronavirus will stop spreading and things will go back to normal.
At the end of 21 days, the government appears to expect people to emerge, as from some resurrection hibernation, all new and free of the pandemic, ready to charge towards a 2030 middle-income target.
China is realising that things don’t always work that way with some sporadic demonstrations over lockdowns.
5/ angry people from Hubei province try to rock over the riot police van on the border bridge afrer weeks of brutal lockdown.pic.twitter.com/h4gZT5xTi5
— 巴丢草 Badiucao (@badiucao) March 27, 2020
They are positive changes to be gained by the lockdown and that is why it has received support across the political divide and has also been employed across the world.
However as fashioned back here they are deficiencies to the plan.
For starters, the lockdown plan is naïve in that it ignores both the economic status of the country and does not provide a specific plan to respond to challenges that will arise from the plan.
Neither does it proffer specific mechanisms to deal with the virus beyond the platitudes which the government has been offering since before the outbreak.
(Remember the offer to assist China fight Coronavirus.)
No Support Mechanism
Highly formalized nations such as the US, Australia and China have enacted fiscal and monetary stimulus measures to counter the Covid-19 disruption.
These act as support measures to lockdowns.
Hong Kong announced a $1200 cash subsidy to all adult permanent residents and paying one month’s rent for people living in public housing.
On March 12, Australia announced an $11.4 million stimulus package that, among other things, will pay small businesses to encourage hiring, provide business subsidies to businesses and also one time payments to people collecting government benefits.
The US, since March 3, has slashed the fed funds rate by 0.5%, which is the largest such since 2008 and has also cut interest rates.
On March 6 President Trump signed an $8.3 billion stimulus effort aimed at funding research on the vaccine and gave money to local governments (read Councils) to fight the spread of the virus.
The US House of Representatives has since passed a stimulus bill which if passed will allow for free virus testing and expand unemployment benefits.
Tax dates have also been shifted by an extra 90 days.
Locally Rwanda has come up with social protection plans to support the vulnerable community members.
These are support measures to various types of lockdowns that are underway in these countries.
Zimbabwe is not in a position to effect some of these measures since the government is already financially hamstrung however much remains hanging under the current arrangement.
Whilst a lockdown was imperative it needed not be a bastardised version lacking both practical sense and foresight.
An informal economy
With a 76% informal workforce, there was a need for a specific plan to support them both during this lockdown period and also in the aftermath since they will be virtually closed.
Leaving them hanging will simply result in disobedience of the lockdown orders as people will seek to earn a living.
Covid-19 has simply become one of many evils and dangers out there for the general public, an addition to those already existing such as hunger and a government that has been failing them.
Seeking to lock them down on the basis of an argument that they will die if they go out won’t work as long they are not offered support measures. And that is a government prerogative and not a gift to a beggar.
Uganda has already experienced this as military personnel have been fighting running battles with adamant vendors in the CBD.
(Pictures courtesy of Getty Images)
As renowned writer, Tsitsi Dangarembga says there is still no clarity on the “public and private hospitals designated to become Covid-19 treatment centres at national, provincial and district level”.
It’s preposterous to think every Covid-19 victim will be coming to Harare or going to Bulawayo which is what the government silence is alleging.
There are also a lot of grey areas on the “targeted number of tests per day and how this will be achieved in the public and private sectors”.
Testing and treating those infected works along with lockdowns. The US had low numbers until they started really testing.
Currently we have tested less than 300 people and are sanitising our consciences with 7 victims but the reality may be different.
Coming Out To the Old
Thus on both the social and economic fronts the lockdown plan, as crafted by the government, is deficient in not pre-empting the foregone repercussions of shutting down a country.
Thus even though the country has done the expected and brought the much-touted lockdown beware of emerging from the 21 days, not just into the same world but an even worse situation.