Businesses start taking coronavirus precautions

Herald Reporters
Zimbabwean businesses are starting to embrace President Mnangagwa’s call to reduce contact between people and maintaining high levels of personal hygiene to prevent the possible spread of the coronavirus.

Many companies are now encouraging the use of electronic and on-line banking, working from home where possible and ensuring customers’ hands are clean especially when buying food.

The Government’s directive to reduce public gatherings to less than 100 people came into operation yesterday.

Some companies have already started making it mandatory for visitors to use sanitisers that have been placed at their entrances.

However, some apostolic churches were by yesterday still to take heed of the call not to converge as a group of more than 100 people.

It was the same situation in the informal sector in Harare, particularly at the large flea markets where proprietors were seemingly not changing their usual habits of close contacts and shaking hands.

Companies, including TelOne, Pick n Pay, Nandos and OK Zimbabwe, had hand sanitisers available to people entering their premises while the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) issued a statement advising depositors to use electronic and online banking services to minimise direct human interaction.

Beta Holdings said it was making arrangements for some of its workers to work from home while those remaining at work have been conscientised on prevention measures. The company is adopting methods that have proved useful in other countries. It said it was streamlining its internal functions to ensure that as much as possible, non-front line staff should work from home.

RBZ Governor Dr John Mangudya, whose remit includes overseeing banking, said in a statement: “All financial service providers should promote high standards of hygiene to mitigate any possible transmission and to safeguard the health of the banking and transacting public as well as bank’s staff. In this regard, financial service providers must stand ready to activate their business continuity and contingency plans, where necessary, to deal with any adverse operational events as they may occur.”

Those remaining to ensure continuity of operations were advised to use sanitisers, regularly washing their hands with soap and social distancing.

Completing the switch to electronic and on-line banking, already far advanced in Zimbabwe, is one way of ensuring people are not infected with contaminated notes and coins, as well as avoiding queues when collecting cash or paying bills.

Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals has cut the number of people wandering around by restricting visitors who want to see admitted patients, and those bringing in the sick. All visitors will now be screened with just two entrance and exit points, to ensure everyone is monitored.

“We strongly urge all our stakeholders and the public to bear with us during this period. The hospital will review these requirements when it is deemed necessary,” said Parirenyatwa in a statement.

The National Employment Council for the Agricultural Industry in Zimbabwe has called on employers in the sector to formulate and implement standard operating procedures against Covid-19.

At the regional crossborder bus terminus, Roadport in Harare, our news crew established that while buses are still operating services to outward destinations, the drop-off centre on return is now the High Glen Terminus in Willowvale. This will keep departing and arriving passengers separate and help prevent cross infections.

As part of its corporate social responsibility, TelOne has offered toll free numbers for the National Emergency Response Centre and all case handling sites. The national landline number is 08002000.

Other general telephone numbers are 0242701623, Harare Wilkins Hospital 08009000 and Thorngroove Infectious Diseases Hospital 08009001; general number 029-2261930, and Mutare Infectious Diseases Hospital 08009002, with the general number being 0202063847.

However, after a call to one of the emergency numbers, it was not easy to get medical assistance from any of the identified treatment and isolation centres unless referred by one’s doctor or primary healthcare facility.

“We are supposed to ask about your travel history to any of the affected countries or interaction with any person who could have travelled to those places. We would also need to know your symptoms and if you meet this criteria, an ambulance will be sent to get you to hospital.

“If you do not meet the criteria, we will refer you to your doctor or primary healthcare facility for assessment,” said a voice from one of the emergency numbers.

Asked if they have knowledge and information to deal with such cases, the Senior Hospital Doctors Association (SHDA) president, Dr Shingai Nyaguse said some doctors had received training through professional associations.

Dr Nyaguse said private practitioners have since engaged the Government for clinicians to be more involved in the preparedness planning process.

“There is need for Government to release clear guidelines specific to Covid-19 and actively train private practitioners nationwide. A lot of training has been done but through professional associations and we feel more could be done. We are ready to work together with the ministry and city health officials in managing any suspected cases,” said Dr Nyaguse.

While other sectors were formulating and implementing plans to fight the spread of coronavirus, a survey by The Herald showed that adherence to the precautionary measures spelt out by the Government remains low in many areas.

While most churches have clearly stated that they will follow policies and keep numbers at their usual services low, some members of apostolic sects were still congregating in numbers beyond the stipulated 100.

It was business as usual at Mupedzanhamo Market and Mbare Musika vegetable market with no extra precautions to minimise social contact or even getting people to keep greater personal distance between themselves.

Vendors who spoke to The Herald yesterday said they were continuing with their business as usual since they relied on the businesses for a living.

“We cannot afford to stay at home because money realised from each day’s sales is what we use for the following day’s meal. That means if we stay at home, we won’t have a meal for the family the following day,” said one vendor, Mr Simon Makome.

The general public were generally indifferent to the advice being given by experts. Most people were still greeting each other with hand shakes, standing close together and even trying to push into queues behind a coughing person.

Zimbabwe has not had any confirmed case of coronavirus, which has killed over 10 500 people worldwide with over 256 000 people confirmed as infected.

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