There has been a spike in the number of Covid-19 cases in Zimbabwe in recent weeks. At the time of writing this post the country had 1713 confirmed cases, including 472 recoveries and twenty-six (26) deaths. In response the government has reverted back to a strict lockdown which will only allow “essential services” to operate with the rest of the population told to stay in. We argue this is neither sustainable nor will this act alone result in the fall in the number of cases and related mortality rate.

The people and the government are complicit

In the past number of weeks we have watched in horror as both the government people have behaved recklessly resulting in the current spike in cases and deaths. It all began with South African and other returnees. There were allegations that security at mandatory quarantine centres was lax and the conditions were so horrible a lot of people who tested positive were able to flee these centres. These escapees many of whom are still at large brought the coronavirus to their villages and surbubs.

While people were vigilant during the weeks of March these days there has been a shocking and brazen violation of mandatory health measures put in place by the government. A lot of people are not social distancing anymore with people often found in crowds. Members of the apostolic sect have also been conducting services which have attendees exceeding government limits and not observing basic social distancing requirements.

A lot of people have also either stopped wearing masks or are not wearing them correctly negating whatever benefits the wearing of masks is supposed to bring. Many berate the masks as uncomfortable and go on to uncover their mouths and noses thereby increasing the chances of spreading coronavirus. A lot of people are being lulled into compacency by fake news posts that do rounds on social media. These post go as far as to say that Africans are immune to the coronavirus while some say the searing savannah heat renders the virus harmless. Both are proven falsehoods.

The government needs to ramp up community testing

Of particular concern is the fact that there are acknowledged mysterious clusters that are being reported on a daily basis. In order to identify and effectively manage these clusters the government needs to do better when it comes to testing. As things stand, testing is hopelessly centralised in a way that will make it hard to identify clusters in various suburbs and villages unless there is a sad spike in Covid-19 related mortalities by which time it will be too late.

Every local clinic staff should be trained and equiped with test kits. This will mean that Covid-19 cases can be easily identified at a local level. Right now some clinics and hospitals are refusing to admit patients who are presenting with Covid-19 like symptoms unless they have been tested for Covid-19. This means patients have to travel across districts to testing centres, risking exposure and delaying treatment.

Most clinics and health facilities are refusing to admit such patients because there is a hopeless shortfall in PPE. The palpable fear by healthstaff is justified. Recently the government had to close a hospital in Zvishavane after the bulk of the staff tested positive for coronavirus. In order for the frontline staff to be effective they have to feel protected.

It will take more than baton sticks

Just like how HIV/AIDS is being combated, use of force alone is not going to ensure victory. We need a constant community outreach program, extensive decentralised testing and protective equipment for us to have a fighting chance against this pandemic. We need a smart lockdown instead of an uninformed blanket lockdown while clusters continue to fester.