Ruth Butaumocho African Agenda
Complacency among Zimbabweans could soon be the biggest challenge in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic. This is amid indications that locals no longer regard the pandemic as a risk and have since thrown caution to the wind.
On Tuesday, Covid-19 positive figures spiked to an all-time high of 591 after the country recorded 17 new cases in a day. Barely three days before, various social media platforms were agog with congratulatory messages after a day without any recorded positive case, since the onset of winter.
However, the celebrations were short-lived because the figures immediately shot up. There are already fears that the country is slowly edging towards a four-digit figure in the next few days.
Regionally, Zimbabwe could soon find itself neck-and-neck with Eswatini and Mozambique that by Wednesday afternoon had recorded 812 and 889 positive cases, respectively
Accelerated transmission of Covid-19 within the next few days would not be surprising considering the lackadaisical approach by most people towards the pandemic.
From the nearly schizophrenic era that gripped the nation end of March when the President announced the initial 21-lockdown period after the country recorded its first cases, most people have thrown caution to the wind.
It is now business as usual, with some people now agitating for the full removal of the lockdown measures.
Long-winding queues of motorists making their way into town throughout the day and hordes of pedestrians evading designated police check points, paint a sad story of a nation that has since disregarded lockdown measures.
Many people have since stopped using sanitisers, while others no longer wear masks in public places.
It is now common to come across off-duty police officers wandering around without wearing masks, and even those manning roadblocks pulling masks down, when they are supposed to be the policing and regulating authority.
Like many regulations, the mask rule is not so much to protect the wearer, but to protect others from the wearer.
Even the check points manned by seemingly overwhelmed personnel have been somewhat relaxed. Add the spiralling figures to the people’s attitude, you have a picture of an eccentric nation that now believes that Covid-19 is no longer a threat to Zimbabwe.
An upsurge in unsanctioned supercilious activities such as beer binges, parties and even church services of more than the stipulated 50 worshippers, flouting the standing social distance rules, merely points to shocking levels of complacency and disregard of lockdown regulations.
The mere fact that more than 85 000 people to date have been arrested for breaching lockdown regulations points to serious neglect, arrogance and just pure disdain of all measures that Government has out in place to further stop the spread of the virus.
For all we know, the people being arrested cannot claim to be ignorant of the devastating effects of the virus. They are deliberately putting thousands of people at risk of contracting the deadly disease that has killed over 500 000 people globally.
The growing complacency among the nation is happening amidst a growing call from the World Health Organisation (WHO) against complacency and lockdown easing.
Addressing journalists during the routine virtual briefing early this week, WHO director-general Tedros Ghebreyesus said the pandemic was “speeding up” despite measures put in place to suppress transmission.
And should that happen, the nation has no one to blame but itself for letting the gauntlet down, when it should have taken the necessary measures to stop the further spread of the virus.
It is undoubtedly clear that disregarding lockdown restrictions that the Government put in place will cost this nation dearly.
The spike will impact negatively on our liberty, our livelihoods, our mental health and well-being, and put a huge strain on the country’s economy.
With a “significant resurgence” of Covid-19 having been reported in nearly a dozen of European countries, igniting fear around the world of a possible calamity, the nation cannot afford to be complacent, but should actually complement Government’s efforts.
In situations like these, tough decisions would need to be made. Government will now need to come up with legal provisions, where breaking lockdown provisions will attract a custodial sentence.
People found flouting the set Covid-19 rules should surely face the music, so that they don’t hold the nation to ransom through their irresponsible behaviour.
Coming from a background of political hiatus, a situation that was eventually rescued by the new political dispensation, the country needs to move forward.
One of such robust moves, includes reining in Covid-19 to enable the country to fully open up and focus on the agenda of the day – the economy.
The good news is all hope is not lost in the country’s fight against the pandemic. Once the communities and individuals take responsibility of Covid-19 and act sensibly, the nation can reduce the spread of the virus.
This is a generation-defining moment for the nation, where both leaders and societies would be judged for the decisions they made or the actions they failed to take to save the country.
By its nature, the pandemic is changing political calculations around the globe, and Zimbabwe needs to be part of the equation. Government has already shown its willingness to take Covid-19 head on through various mitigation measures, we therefore call on individuals and communities to complement its efforts. Complacency will certainly not take this nation anywhere.