By EVERSON MUSHAVA
OPPOSITION MDC Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa yesterday said the situation in the country now required leadership, demanding the reduction of health services costs where critical COVID-19 cases would be treated free of charge.
Chamisa was addressing the nation on the COVID-19 situation in the country and outlining how his government could have responded to the menace.
The opposition leader said the COVID-19 pandemic was wreaking havoc in every family, village, suburb and community and every COVID-19 statistic is a human being, calling for the need for a pragmatic and comprehensive approach to the country’s response.
“Leadership is now required,” Chamisa said.
“We immediately demand the reduction of the cost of our health services. In fact we must make it free for COVID-19 patients who are in serious condition.
“We must decentralise testing and roll out free testing to rural areas at growth points and townships including at all clinics and hospitals.”
Most people are parting with over US$60 to screen for the virus at private laboratories, while the few who are screened at government institutions receive results very late when the situation would have deteriorated.
Chamisa said there was need to roll out massive testing across the country during lockdowns, as restrictive measures alone without screening was a futile excise.
He also called for the need for a COVID-19 advisory body made up of health and scientific experts who are able to come up with pragmatic responses to the pandemic.
He said health workers should be rewarded and capacitated, since they were on the frontline in the fight against the pandemic.
The rewarding, he proposed, should include a tax-free US$2 000.
According to the Health Services Board, over 1 500 health workers have already been infected with COVID-19, and seven deaths recorded.
“Provision of at least US$2 000 risk allowance and tax exemption for all health professionals, security servicemen and women and government workers on duty,” Chamisa said.
“We want to emphasise that in view of the disparities in the exchange rates, this must be paid in hard cash, that is, in USD.”
Chamisa said government needed funds to capacitate hospitals, increase capacity due to the tripling of COVID-19 cases as well as buy vaccines.
“Zimbabwe needs to: avail funds for the development, manufacturing and procurement of COVID-19 solutions, avail funds for treatment of the communities and start the process of identifying at risk populations who are supposed to receive the treatment first.
“For a treatment plan, priority must be given to the elderly, the vulnerable, people living with disabilities, widows, orphans and our frontline workers.”
Chamisa also said there was need to decongest prisons, adding that they have turned into super spreaders, as well as coming up with short targeted lockdowns, where people will be capacitated with some social grants to allow them to stay at home.
“In view of the need to save lives from hunger and the coronavirus and also saving the economy from total collapse, we need to come out of lockdown and seal our borders save for trade and come up with an organised strategy of returning to work with inputs,” Chamisa said.
He also called for the scrapping of the 2% intermediated mobile money transaction tax to bring reprieve to businesses that are struggling due to the debilitating effects of the virus.
“Government should consider a number of fiscal measures aimed at reducing tax burden for businesses and individuals where appropriate and this should include the immediate removal of the 2% tax to spur business growth,” he said, adding that Zimbabwe’s economy needed funding in the region of US$5 billion.