By Moses Charedzera
Since the first reported case of covid-19 on the 20th Of March 2020, Zimbabwe had managed to keep the progression of the pandemic under check until July.
Driven now by a rapidlygrowing local transmission, the situation is about to get out of hand unless another total shutdown for at least two weeks is imposed.
From the 30th March when the lockdown was introduced to 30thof June, Zimbabwe recorded 574 cases in three months. Then in one month the equation changed.
The end of July saw Zimbabwe recording a cumulative of 3092 cases, representing a massive jump of 2518 cases in one month.
With such an alarmingly steep rise in the caseload curve, alarm bells should be ringing, a call to immediate action. This should be so in view of the obtaining situation in the country.
A lethargic inertia has entered communities who are blatantly disregarding the very measures that should protect them. What is worrisome is that the high fidelity of compliance to some of the measures in the initial lockdown period has been replaced by wanton abandon, a disconcerting letting down of the guard akin to self-immolation.
There is no resolve and strength to wear the mask religiously in public places, with this premier guard against infection being lowered down, or just absent in many communities.
Many times,I have experienced embarrassment for wearing the facemask(but have not taken it off) as members of the community look at me like an alien.
The only time they wear the mask is when shops prevent entry to those without masks, yet the primary function of the mask is to protect the one who wears it.
I have exchanged more than banter with my friend who still insists on shaking hands and breaking the one metre social distance rule when we chat.
Cocooned in a feeling of safety by familiarity, the community exhibits a mixture of genuine ignorance and inertia as the pandemic enters the acceleration stage. There is this feeling, quite divorced from logic, that “yes corona is there, but I won’tcatch it.”
The is despite the fact that we are beginning to see more television stories with undertakers and pall bearers dressedin the white personal protective equipment used when burying coronavirus victims.
There is thus need to scale up and restructure the information campaign and messaging at a national level to focus on motivating behaviour change and this entails going beyond messages on symptoms and prevention.
Such messaging needs to provoke and stimulate members of the community to act to stop the spread of the pandemic.
The current perception is that the responsibility of stopping the pandemic lies with government, with the majority requiring various authorities such as the police, bus crews, supermarkets and other enterprises to enforce covid-19 regulations for them.
The biggest limitation to this set up is that where there is no one to enforce the regulations, such as in homes, in the community and in structures where enforcement is lax, every member of society becomes a potential agent for getting infected and spreading the disease to someone else.
So it is imperative to see the need for behaviour change in everybody and to motivate that change. The campaign thus needs to stress that the covid-19 regulations are for the safety and good health of each and every citizen.
As we have seen with coronavirus, one member of the community who does not comply with the regulations is a danger to all the community.
In my earlier offering on covid-19, I used the analogy of the horizontal radio volume control knob as a continuum for action to stop the pandemic.
In this formulation, moving the knob to the far-right entails movement towards an effective total shutdown, while movement to the left involves minimal regulations but more space for the virus to spread.
Now is the time to move the knob further to the right. While this entails more pressure and squeeze on livelihoods, it nevertheless reflects the reality of the situation and is in sync with government’s mantra that the economy can be resuscitate but lost lives can’t.
Zimbabwe’s health delivery system was under severe stress even before the covid-19 pandemic and is ill-equipped to handle the massive numbers that result from a full-blown pandemic.
We need to remember that covid-19 is a disease of sheer numbers.
Europe with its superior public and private health system was overwhelmed and we can’t fare any better.
It is also important to note that some countries such as Botswana, China, Germany, South Korea, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia have bolsteredlockdown measures due to spikes in cases.
I need to reiterate that while the impact on already strained livelihoods will be significant, this can not compare to the cost in lives lost which is bound to occur if the lockdown continues in its present state.