At the weekend, several African countries closed their borders, cancelled flights and imposed strict entry and quarantine requirements as part of measures to contain the spread of the deadly new coronavirus. So far at least 26 countries on the African continent have confirmed cases and the numbers keep rising.
Much more concerning for Zimbabwe is that all the countries that provide all of its air connectivity have confirmed cases: South Africa, Rwanda, Kenya, Ethiopia and Dubai. In most of these cases, the transmission is not community transmission, but among all those that had travelled recently. Air travel has been the single biggest mode of spreading the virus from China where it originated to the rest of the world and Europe has become the new epicentre of the virus, according to the World Health Organisation.
Governments across the globe are now becoming more aggressive and stepping up quarantine and travel restriction. We have not really done much in that regard except for daily alerts from the Health ministry which merely report on what other countries are doing than what Zimbabwe is doing.
That Zimbabwe has not, to date, proffered a plausible strategy as to how it will deal with coronavirus is quite concerning.
They have, however, been making efforts to explain each suspected case, but what many would want to hear is a list of proactive measures.
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa told his fellow countrymen that because of the scale and the speed at which the virus is spreading, it is now clear that “no country is immune from the disease or will be spared its severe impact.”
His words and the fact that the country has closed some of its ports is testimony that bold decisions are now required to keep Zimbabwe coronavirus free.
South Africa has come out in the open to say its public health system will not cope with an outbreak. A raft of meetings including a Cabinet briefing have been held to try and map out ways to stem the spread.
The country yesterday resolved to close 35 of its 72 ports of entry through land, sea and airports after the number of infections rose to 62.
While remaining calm is still of utmost importance, the question that still begs an answer is that there has not been a deliberate plan which will act as a buffer in the event that there is a positive patient.
What worries many people is the state of our hospitals and those manning them. Not long ago, doctors stopped coming to work citing incapacitation. They said they had no drugs, equipment and even simple bandages. This scenario is what we need to look at and address as a matter of urgency.
Aggressive measures are working in other countries and Asian countries including China, South Korea and Singapore have seen some stability in recent weeks. This is largely due to some tough decisions and social distancing measures.
Then aside from the readiness of the government, are the people of Zimbabwe ready to change their traditional way of doing things? People randomly greet each other by shaking hands and even at funerals this practice is common. In places of worship, pastors and prophets lay their hands on the heads of their followers and in some cases pray while in a tight embrace.
Christian love is also demonstrated by hugging and kissing, all of which gestures are the worst when it comes to transmission of the COVID 19. Kudos to some faith communities in Zimbabwe that have now instituted sterner measures to safeguard their congregants, but the country needs to go further, closing schools and institutions of higher learning and banning large public gatherings. We do not have to wait for the floodgates to open and belatedly close the hatch.