As you recall, we started the year with a disturbing spike in the number of COVID-19 infections and deaths. This necessitated the authorities to enact lockdown restrictions. However, the number of infections and deaths has recently gone down significantly since then. In the past 2 or so days, only 45 new cases have been recorded countrywide with no deaths recorded. As previously scheduled, President E.D. Mnangagwa delivered a review on the lockdown restrictions on 1 March. As most anticipated the restrictions were largely eased thus paving a trajectory towards widespread normalcy. In this article, I look at that and more.

The New Lockdown Restrictions

In total 36089 COVID-19 cases and 1463 deaths have been recorded since the pandemic hit Zimbabwe. Notably, most of the recorded deaths occurred in 2021. The President gave reference to the falling number of case numbers and the success of the initial vaccination rollout. So far, a donation of 200000 doses of the Sinopharm vaccine, were received from China. It has been reported that an additional 600000 doses are expected in March.

Thus he went on to stipulate the following major changes to the lockdown restrictions. He pointed out that curfew will now be between 2200hrs and 0530hrs. He also highlighted that exemption letters for travel will no longer be required for movement. He advised that schools, colleges, and universities must start preparing to reopen. On social gatherings, he said that up to 50 people only will be allowed. The continuation of mandatory mask-wearing and temperature checking remains in effect. Another major change was that of intercity travel which will now be permitted. Restaurants can open but only for takeaway; not sit-in dining. He added that supermarkets can now remain open until 1900hrs. Funeral gatherings will remain restricted to not more than 30 people. Beer halls, bars, and the like are to remain closed.

The Much Needed Relief…

The easing of the lockdown restrictions was much-needed given how crippling lockdowns can be. The mandatory need to have travelling exemption letters meant that many people could not freely move around. Of course, many people were cheating the system somehow but the majority were stuck. Not forgetting small businesses, particularly in the informal sector, could not operate at all. In his remarks, the President did not categorically mention anything regarding the informal sector. However, it is somehow implied from the other stipulations that operations remain largely restricted.

I have noticed though that most informal traders have been slowly creeping back into action. In some areas, vendors now even operate openly without being scuffled by the police or army. The enforcement of lockdown restrictions was also riddled with police and army brutality. Now that restrictions have been eased we can expect to see much less of that. The return of intercity travel will also be a huge move. Many people make a living through endeavours that entail travelling to other local cities. Bringing that back will bring so much relief to so many Zimbabweans. Last year most academic students lost out big on classroom time. At least this year the easing of restrictions has come much sooner.

People Urged To Be Wary Of A Third Wave

History tells that the spike in cases from the beginning this year was a result of opening the borders amongst other things. Thus this time some people have felt that it is best if the authorities hold off on officially opening the borders. Of course, air travel has been largely back to normal but precautionary measures are much easier to enforce as compared to road travel. The possibility of a third wave is also why people are still being urged to continue wearing masks, practising hygiene, and maintaining social distancing.

The Vaccination Issue…

The issue of vaccination remains a heavily contentious one. Apparently, there is a huge divide with some agreeable to it whilst others are not. Those advocating for it are basing their rationale on the fact that vaccination has always been part of the human experience. Thus they believe that there is no harm in getting vaccinated. Those against vaccination have quite a range of reasons why they do not want to get vaccinated. They look at the fact that it has been established in other countries that getting the vaccine does not necessarily mean one will not get infected or will not transmit the virus.

The premise that based on WHO and CDC officials have been on record saying that. Plus those same officials have said mask-wearing, social distancing and the like must still be done even after one is vaccinated. So they get to wonder what the whole point in getting vaccinated is. They feel there is a hidden agenda somewhere. Already in other countries, there have been cases of people getting infected despite being vaccinated, not to mention side effects. On top of that vaccines are big business, billions to be made – is it not just about making money? There is so much chatter on the issue of vaccinations. Then there is the issue of possible coercion of people to get vaccinated; so many variables at play.

Well, looking forward we can only expect the authorities to be more proactive in their approach. I believe the pandemic has been around long enough for lessons to be drawn. If a strategic approach is taken I am confident the third wave can be nipped in the bud. Of course, people need to be kept safe and all but the economy needs to spring back to full life. So, are you getting vaccinated or not – let us know in the comments below.