The lockdown to control the spread of coronavirus has exposed a number of many challenges Zimbabwe is going to encounter in the coming months as it deals with the pandemic that has affected millions across the globe.
When the three-week lockdown began on March 30, Zimbabwe had only recorded three coronavirus cases with one fatality, but as of Friday the number had spiralled to 24 positive cases and three deaths.
In the last week, Bulawayo which had not recorded a case before the lockdown, emerged as the epicentre of the pandemic with 10 positive cases and one death.
The Bulawayo infections clearly showed that simply restricting people to their homes for 21 days without any serious disease surveillance and control measures is an exercise in futility.
Zimbabwe’s lack of preparedness to handle the coronavirus outbreak, which started in China late last year before spreading to almost every country in the world like a veld fire, has been laid bare.
Patients that were tested in Bulawayo for the virus waited for more than two days before they were informed about their status, while Ian Hyslop died without knowing that he was infected.
For several days Hyslop was treated for malaria, another indicator of the health delivery system’s lack of readiness to confront the outbreak, which will severely test Zimbabwe’s resilience in the coming days.
The lockdown has also been a severe test for the country’s impoverished population with thousands spending most of the 21 days scrambling for basics such as mealie-meal, which is in short supply.
Vulnerable groups in high-density suburbs were out in their thousands hunting for mealie-meal for the past three weeks and were unable to exercise social distancing as they huddled in meandering queues.
Cities such as Harare and Bulawayo remained without adequate water, making it impossible for residents to maintain high standards of hygiene that are recommended to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
Without direct policy interventions, the challenges enumerated above, among many others, a lockdown will not achieve any meaningful results even if stretched for the remainder of the year.
Perhaps, the most difficult test the lockdown posed was on the economy with industry raising the red flag a few days into the shutdown that authorities needed to have a relook into regulations rolled out to ensure its enforcement.
On Friday, the Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce said it foresaw industry bleeding jobs in unprecedented fashion while the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries said the local economy was too fragile to sustain a total shutdown.
The above were valuable lessons that the authorities need to take on board as they plot the next battle plan in Zimbabwe’s war against coronavirus.