The highly anticipated update on the 21-day lockdown was announced late afternoon on the 19th of April by President E.D Mnangagwa. It turns out that the resounding public perception was spot on after all – that the lockdown will be extended. The short of it is that the lockdown has been extended by 2 weeks to the 3rd of May. There are, of course, mixed feelings as to whether this is a good or bad move. I suppose most people were expecting the lockdown to end so that people get to resume their income-generating endeavours without restrictions. However, there is another angle to it that revolves on the fact that the number of cases has been increasing. Thus, it has become a tussle between restoring normalcy and curbing the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Highlights From The President’s Address

The President highlighted that there shall be tracing of contacts with infected persons. This is central to ensuring that the spread of the virus is curbed. There are also revamping exercises being done to adequately furnish and capacitate local health institutions. Given the statistics over the 21 day shutdown period, it is anticipated that more cases will be recorded. He also indicated that ensuring that there is adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) is a top priority. Efforts are being directed towards ensuring that the infection curve flattens. He said that the current number of confirmed cases locally stands at 25. He expressed with concern that more local citizens are returning home from other countries. This increases the threats of more infections.

As a nation, we are yet to meet the conditions necessary for the lifting of a lockdown. Essentially 4 conditions have to be met for a lockdown to be lifted – this is according to standards by the World Health Organization (WHO). One, health systems must be in a position to test, isolate, treat and trace every contact. Two, the transmission of the virus must be controlled and it must be guaranteed that outbreak risks are minimal in places like health institutions. Three, there must be preventive measures particularly in places where lots of people converge. Four, imported risks must be properly managed along with education of, engagement with and empowerment of communities to adjust accordingly.

The President also pointed out that worse times are likely ahead of us. Especially given that the number of cases globally continues to spike. He emphasised the importance for people to exercise restraint. In light of the tight measures that characterised the 21 day lockdown period, he pointed out that things will be relaxed a bit for the mining sector. Mining operations are going to be scaled up but safety measures must be strictly observed. This means that workers shall be tested before going to work. He also said that limited operations will resume but being mindful of public health safety measures – small and medium scale enterprises included. The stipulations on essential services that were in place before will remain in place.

The cash disbursement programme earmarked for vulnerable individuals will be beefed up. The role of the security sector will remain as was before i.e. general law enforcement and seeing to it that people comply with statutory instrument (SI) 83 of 2020.

Implications Of The Extension

The extension means that more and more people are going to be adversely affected. Especially those who do not fall under essential services and cannot operate their businesses, hustles or go to work. An additional 2 weeks means, all in all, it will get to 5 weeks since most people downed their tools. Since most people live from hand to mouth, it is without a doubt a nightmare for most people out there. As I said earlier, the factors at play are so murky because on the one side there is a need for the economy to be brought back to normalcy. On the flip side, there is also a need to keep the COVID-19 pandemic in check because the consequences of not doing so can be devastating. It is almost akin to choosing between two undesirable options. As I have said before people are going to have to become more enterprising – especially considering taking the online route. If you cannot figure out a way to do business or generate income online it is going to be hard.

As we start this additional period of 2 weeks you must begin to embrace that it is not business as usual. I know most of you have not been so fond of embracing the new reality but you ought to. Think of it this way, there is a possibility, hypothetically, that another extension can come after this one. Remember some factors are looked at to determine whether or not a lockdown can be lifted. So, embrace the new prevailing norm and figure out ways to profit from it. I would also encourage you to look out for others that might be less privileged than you could be. Just the little you do can make a difference in their lives – especially regarding basic commodities, most people are in dire straits right now.