Markets reopening divides opinion

Municipal Correspondent

Plans to reopen Mupedzanhamo flea market and the Glen View Area 8 complex soon have seen health experts demanding far more enforcement of public health rules than at the moment, before giving their blessing.

Vendors want the markets reopened so they can earn their living.

In an interview yesterday, Vendors Initiative for Social and Economic Transformation (VISET) executive director Samuel Wadzai said the markets should be opened, but under strict monitoring.

“I think as a country we can still allow the markets to reopen, but fully supported in a clean environment and given the necessary personal protective equipment,” he said.

“The protective clothing in this case refers to masks. People are struggling to make ends meet, so they can resume business, but adhering to health guidelines set by the World Health Organisation and Government.”

But medical expert and Chitungwiza chief executive Dr Enock Mayida said the problem was non-conformity with health regulations and non-enforcement.

“Although the relaxations were said to be done under strict health regulations, the implementation on the ground is not properly followed,” said Dr Mayida.

“It becomes tricky to allow the mass business to operate.

“For those currently operational, one can notice that there is no social distancing, people do not wear masks, while those that wear may not necessarily cover the mouth or nose. They only wear them when law enforcement agents raid their workspaces.”

Dr Mayida said medical experts wanted the relaxations tried out in good faith and to see if they were practical, but since local transmissions were increasing, relaxations should at least be restricted.

“Our medical facilities cannot adequately cope if the numbers continue to rise and most of these people use rented accommodation and share properties including toilets, washing lines and bathrooms, so it is quite difficult to self-isolate at home in cases of contraction of Covid-19,” he said.

Zimbabwe National Organisation of Associations and Residents Trusts national chairman Shalvar Chikomba said the reopening of markets and other vendors’ markets was overdue, as residents were finding it difficult to survive and fend for their families.

Mr Chikomba raised concern over the numbers of Covid-19 cases rising daily, saying council should make sure all necessary precautions were taken.

“Council should put their house in order first before the reopening and make sure everyone is safe,” he said.

“Also of concern is the issue of allocation of trading space, the criteria being used to do such have to be transparent.

“It is our thinking that the first priority should be given to the people who were trading on those spaces before Covid-19 came. The rest should be done in a non-partisan manner.”

Combined Harare Residents Association’s (CHRA) director, Mrs Loreen Mupasiri said there was always the need to balance between protecting the right of citizens to health and ensuring access to livelihoods.

“Considering the fact that these two markets are already oversubscribed by vendors, there may be need to create a roster where they rotate per week instead of all of them coming at once,” she said.

“A proper Covid-19 prevention and preparedness plan must be developed before opening to avoid a health disaster.”

Mrs Mupasiri said the numbers of customers should be controlled like what is happening in supermarkets.

Harare City Council corporate communications manager Mr Michael Chideme said the council was guided by Covid-19 guidelines from Government.

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