WE have just about a week before the national lockdown imposed by President Emmerson Mnangagwa runs its course after 21 days, and the question on everybody’s lips and minds has been: What happens after the 21 days?
The question has been inspired mainly by the difficulties in continuing with normal life, brought about by the lockdown as we know it. Mnangagwa himself has not ruled out the possibility of extending it beyond the stated three weeks.
But if the lockdown was meant to ensure that the tide of infection is stemmed, and realising that we have recorded a few more cases since the lockdown, it may be sufficient reason to extend it, perhaps until such a time that we have no more new cases while those that have been diagnosed have fully recovered.
Whether or not to remove the lockdown after 21 days must be determined by a cost-benefit analysis of the current measures.
Relaxing the lockdown was on its own an act of dishonest. The incubation period for COVID-19 is up to 21 days, thus either way, it might be difficult to have an accurate analysis of the impact of this pandemic. It could be worse afterwards.
Already, we know that many self-employed entrepreneurs have lost significant business and potential profits although their financial obligations remain.
On the other hand, some companies have indicated they would not be able to pay salaries for the month of April as there is no business.
These developments have to be weighed against the potential effects of COVID-19 on both individuals, families and the nation as a whole.
Lockdown has immediate ramifications for individuals who live on a hand-to-mouth basis, which speaks to the majority of Zimbabweans, itself a compelling reason to lift the lockdown after 21 days and ensure that people continue to earn their keep.
The reason why some people have defied the lockdown is not because they are natural outlaws, but the need to eat is sufficient justification for such actions. The question becomes: What would you rather die of? Hunger or COVID-19?
It is essential for government to determine at this juncture if the threat posed by COVID-19 is worth the cost of the lockdown.
If we are honest with ourselves, we can appreciate that we can’t really lockdown in Africa, more so in Zimbabwe, where millions of people already live in overcrowded accommodation and even share sanitation facilities.
In these circumstances, social distancing becomes a strange animal.