Is the lockdown achieving the desired results?


AS authorities sit down very soon to review the impact of the 21-day national lockdown, we urge them to look the bull in the eye and honestly take stock of some of the glaring shortcomings identified along the way so that they are better informed on the best way forward.

NewsDay Comment

The first step would be to critically analyse how other countries, especially our neighbours, have tailored their response, but without rushing into adopting a one-size-fits-all approach since each country has its own unique social and economic context.

Although government forced the majority of the people to stay out of the central business districts of most cities during the 21-day lockdown period which ends on April 19, the situation in most high-density suburbs is a different story altogether.

In some areas, people continue to gather and mingle in huge numbers in defiance of calls to observe social distancing. It is therefore essential for people to be educated enough on the importance of staying in their homes during this lockdown period. What we have observed is that there has been not much buy-in from the public, with the gospel of social distancing finding few takers. It would appear that the lockdown directive was a top-bottom order which did not consider communities’ way of life.

We also do appreciate that many of our communities are naturally densely-populated, which makes it difficult to enforce total lockdown. In this regard, it is important for government to scale up efforts to disseminate information on COVID-19 until people fully embrace it because in many instances, some people are still viewing COVID-19 as a joke far removed from them. In the absence of such vital information, our fear is that the government might decide to extend, suspend or even amend the lockdown on the basis of theoretical metrics far removed from the reality on the ground.

The public also needs clarity on what will happen after the 21-day lockdown period. What will be the end result?

Is the metric of success of the lockdown to suppress the spread of the virus, ramp up testing to cover the entire population or to reduce the rate of inflation? Or is it the end of the scourge? In future, authorities need to understand that any measures meant to safeguard public health need to be communicated alongside a clearly defined goal and quantifiable targets of what the measures aim to achieve. Anything short of that won’t get public buy-in, especially if the enforcers apply brute force to enforce compliance on a population reeling under extreme poverty, unemployment and a general disdain of anything driven by the Zanu PF regime. We also noted a disturbing trend where certain motorists are allowed to pass through the police checkpoints as essential service providers after paying bribes. The screening criteria needs a revisit.

Our fear is that a rushed decision to lift the restrictions could spell doom to our poor nation given the parlous state of our health delivery system.