The government of Zimbabwe should consider lifting the lockdown in phases, while monitoring the behavior and responses of the population, medical experts have expressed.
By Cecilia Kamputa
In an article published by the Pan African Medical Journal, University of Zimbabwe’s Department of Medical Laboratory Sciences’ Matthew Dzobo and others proposed that the government must screen essential services like transport, the food industry, healthcare and security forces to minimize local spread.
“This is particularly important for healthcare workers to avoid future outbreaks of nosocomial COVID-19 infections in hospital wards,” the article says.
The specialists also proposed the implementation of new mandatory infection control policies specifically addressing COVID-19 for every company intending to reopen after lockdown.
“Employers will have to provide disinfection materials, masks and temperature screening at single entry points.”
Other proposed conditions for the uplifting of the lockdown include the restriction of unnecessary travel by mounting roadblocks on major highways and the introduction of inter-city travel passes.
On education, Dzobo and his colleagues proposed that infection control measures had to be put in place before schools were reopened including the screening of all teaching staff.
“We suggest that the government delay lifting the ban on church gatherings and sporting events, while funerals may continue under the current lockdown framework of not having more than 50 people at the funeral,” they said.
The specialists also added to the growing calls for the government to address the growing calls to address the plight of Zimbabweans risking dying due to malnutrition rather than of COVID-19 citing that the lockdown had deprived many urban dwellers of their sources of livelihoods, which are mostly in the informal sector at a time when prices of basic commodities have skyrocketed.
“The government has to come up with stimulation packages and incentives for suppliers so that they can continue supplying goods and services without hiking prices,” expressed the specialists.
“Currently the government is implementing a programme cushioning 450 000 people through a $90 million facility.
“It is a good facility, but if divided equally, it means that each person gets $200, which is worth six loaves of bread at current pricing.”
Dzobo and others added that, with a health sector already burdened by communicable and non-communicable diseases before COVID-19, the government had to cater for these patients and ensure the availability of their medical care and treatment whilst making a plan for managing the deficits.
A need for psychological support for people who are suffering from stress and anxiety due to the pandemic and the ensuing loss was also proposed by the medical specialists.
Zimbabwe went into lockdown on March 30, 2020 and the lockdown has had two 14 day extensions.
So far the country has recorded 34 confirmed COVID-19 cases, four deaths and five recoveries.