It’s time we face some uncomfortable realisations…..
On Friday President Mnangagwa announced another extension of the national COVID-19 induced lockdown, with the modification of it going to level 2, where big businesses can resume operation, alongside new operation hours and a maintained ban on small vehicles such as taxis and combis. It’s again another unfortunate consequence of Covid-19’s continued grip on the world, but with 40 confirmed cases in our country it seems to be the best course of action again. However, people’s lives and adjustments they’re supposed to make obviously aren’t as easy to manage as declaring a two-week extension of a lockdown, hence a realization has immediately come to mind: As a country we’re all going to need to adapt to COVID-19 for the long haul, and fast.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been wreaking havoc around the world for almost two months now, with most countries taking social distancing measures that have of course left a mark on nearly every industry in the world, along with the lives of all the people in those countries. Unfortunately Zimbabwe has been no different, and considering all the challenges our country has already been facing (to put it mildly) , the effect all this has had on us has been….taxing to say the least. Which is we all wanted this lockdown to end as soon as possible. However, perhaps it was time to realize that the lockdown, or some version of a social distancing scenario, where likely never going to end. Unfortunately, with the current state of the pandemic around the world, and the fact that the past week the current news and analytical consensus around COVID-19 was that no one knows when the pandemic will end, we likely won’t be getting any version of an end to COVID-19 control or containment measures. It’s not what anyone wants, and it’s not a position any of us should be in, but it is reality, and because of that, both citizens and our government, should accept this, and most importantly, adapt.
On Monday, a certain amount of movement will be allowed again, we can all go outside and leave our homes essentially. But despite the large human instinct to go outside that will likely nag at you to go smell some fresh air, alongside all the things you had pending for five weeks now , it might still be best to slow down and not just rush into CBDs or industrial areas where a lot of people may be . After all nothing about the virus itself has changed, and while chances of newer infections might be getting lower, you likely don’t want to put yourself out as a test subject of that. So unless it is an emergency (which many of you might think it is but it’s likely not) don’t rush yourself into any setting that has a lot of people. And this is all of course observing the already stated rules on navigating through COVID-19. Have a face mask (even one made out of clothing fabric will do) , wash your hands regularly , don’t touch your face and don’t unnecessarily touch people or surfaces either. If you have to use public transport to travel, we advise you travel as least as possible if at all. Try and use shops in your local area more, especially as bigger chains in CBD’s open. Staying in a closed circle and limiting the number of outsiders you interact with is still a must, don’t forget that at all.
The rules could go on forever really but the sentiment remains: we need to adapt our behavior to these conditions more long-term than short, and our government needs to as well. To date, everyone has been critical of how they’ve handled the COVID-19 situation but any affiliations or bias aside it can still be said that they haven’t handled it as well as many would like. Well regardless of that now things have to change. Starting with public transport : the ZUPCO bus situation has always seemingly been a compensatory measure caused by last year’s hyperinflation and public transport issues. Now ZUPCO buses will be the only ones that can operate in as a form of public transport. But considering the massive shortage that’s always existed for these (which made them a nightmare to ride due to overcrowding) and the now implemented social distancing protocols for these buses don’t make things any but easier for anyone really. One could even question the safety of getting into a ZUPCO bus anyway considering the infamous tightly packed people make for those as well, easily constituting as a gathering bigger than 50 people. Simply put, the government HAS to get the public transportation fixed like it’s always had to, but now with lives potentially at stake, that’s now an urgent matter to attend to not something they can continuously wave away. And the chief reason to travel itself, business, is not necessarily something that should be worth putting yourself at risk at the moment. Not without a detailed and strict plan as to how, when and why certain businesses should be open and how they help alleviate the pressure caused by COVID-19. The current partial lockdown plan is a first step. And in a terminal economy where everything has essentially fallen apart it’s the right first step especially as large businesses are allowed to operate again. However there should be guidelines as to how those businesses should operate or how they treat employees. Guidelines that go beyond WHO’s. Serious consideration and precautions have to be made for workers who might have to use public transport, as well as how many workers should actually come in per week. Businesses certainly shouldn’t try and take advantage of the situation either, paying workers lower wages because of less work hours or rotating shifts and the government should create a bill or some form a regulatory law specifically to enforce this otherwise, as usual, it will be a lawless land here. And there’s other precautions needed as well. Internet access should me more widespread hence cheaper for more people to access information at a time like this. Lines at shops should have more organization rather than being cesspools for violence and corruption. When banks open the same should be done there. It’s all a long list of adjustments that have to be made in Zimbabwe otherwise COVID-19’s long term effects will affect a lot more people than the virus ever will in out country.
And we have no other option than to make these adjustments, or others, if we really want to go back to some version of normalcy in our lives and of course limit the damage this pandemic does to them. Whether we can pull together as a country and actually do that remains to be seen. It’s challenging to put faith in our government after all. In fact, some would say the same about trusting Zimbabwean people. But let’s maybe turn away for convention and try to. Not for their sakes, but for our own. After all, COVID-19 and all it’s problems might take us on a long ride, we might as well have a little hope while we’re on it.