With Covid-19 infections increasing sharply in recent weeks, the Government had to announce a tightening of restrictions.
Cases are being recorded in schools, at workplaces and other places. John Tallach High and George Silundika High in Matabeleland North, Matopo High in Matabeleland South, Emakhandeni Primary in Bulawayo and Prince Edward in Harare are some of the schools at which Covid-19 cases have been reported. As that happens, more fatalities are being recorded, especially in Bulawayo.
The recent spike is chiefly because many citizens are now relaxed. They wrongly think that Covid-19 has been overcome. They are patronising bars and night clubs in their numbers even as these establishments are not yet allowed to operate.
They are hosting and attending huge parties and weddings. Streets are now packed with people going about their business. There is no longer any social distancing in queues and face masks are being discarded. Indeed, for many, the old normal has returned.
The Government had to act, as it did yesterday by announcing that lockdown regulations would be more strictly enforced, while measures to decongest schools and improve water supplies are being implemented.
Speaking at a post-Cabinet briefing yesterday, Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry Minister Mangaliso Ndlovu said Treasury had released $150 million for the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education to drill boreholes at schools.
He added that the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education with technical support from the Ministry of Health and Child Care, is organising logistics for implementing a number of measures to minimise the recurrence of the John Tallach School situation.
He said: “The Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education with technical support from the Ministry of Health and Child Care, is organising logistics for implementing the following practical measures to minimise the recurrence of the John Tallach School experience in other boarding schools, reviewing the maximum carrying capacity of all boarding hostels, conducting detailed inspection of boarding facilities and targeted training of hostel matron, boarding masters as well as kitchen staff.”
He added: “It should be noted that public bars, night clubs, beerhalls, casinos, betting shops and theatres are still not permitted to operate. The nation is informed that gatherings are still regulated, while authorised events such as weddings and church congregations are limited to 50 and 100 persons, respectively. . . . The enforcement of lockdown measures will be intensified henceforth. It should be emphasised that where there is non-compliance to these regulations the law enforcement agencies will not hesitate to enforce the penalties prescribed.
“With the festive season fast approaching, the public is advised to take all the necessary precautions to prevent a surge in Covid-19 positive cases.”
We were getting increasingly concerned that schools are recording more cases just weeks before the country reopens some of its land borders which should result in more traffic between the country and its neighbours. This also comes as the festive season approaches.
We were fearful that this could result in the country being thrown into a crisis unseen since the outbreak of Covid-19 in March.
It is however good that the Government has stepped in, making it clear that enforcement of lockdown measures would be intensified.
We, thus, expect to see more law enforcement agents in public places enforcing social distancing, proper wearing of face masks and so on. We expect arrests being made on those who break the rules.
The public is strongly advised that the coronavirus is not defeated yet. It is resurging in Europe, America and parts of Africa including in our country.
The message therefore is that there is nothing like lockdown fatigue if assuaging that fatigue results in more Covid-19 infections and fatalities. All of us must just behave.
It might be also important for the Government to consider whether it is still workable having schools continuing to operate amid the spike in Covid-19 cases at some learning institutions and elsewhere.