Today marks exactly one year since Zimbabwe declared its first hard lockdown as authorities joined other nations to curb the spread of the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
At this point, Zimbabwe had reported five confirmed COVID-19 cases and one death.
Then, very little was known about the virus and the World Health Organization (WHO) could only advise health authorities to ensure that people kept distance, sanitized their hands and wore face-masks while collaborative efforts by leading pharmaceutical companies to develop vaccines were taking place behind the scenes.
At home, President Emmerson Mnangagwa – faced with a broken health system stirred the ship with all he had, albeit with some semblance of success, and managed to minimize what could have been perhaps total wreckage.
“Some of the measures will be drastic and are sure to upset the daily routines of our lives. Should it become necessary, security forces will be deployed to assist in the enforcement of these measures,” Mnangagwa said at the announcement of the initial lockdown.
Maybe the means to execute this decisive action (lockdown) during the next 21 days of hard lockdown was unpopular, but the intention (curb the spread) was mutually shared across the political divide.
“Politics aside, we must unite to save lives,” leader of the main opposition party-MDC-Alliance, Nelson Chamisa wrote on Twitter.
This marked the beginning of a new way of life in all spheres of society and the country’s resilience in time of panic, in time of great anxiety and in time of economic distress was put to test.
The economy, already staggering from structural imbalances which included hyper-inflation, weak production, import dependence and currency devaluation was about to face one of its greatest challenges in memory but authorities put lives first.
Sadly, this period gave birth to one of the damning corrupt scandals in the history of the country, dubbed ‘COVID-gate” when then Health Minister, Obadiah Moyo turned out to be the kingpin of a US$60 million Covid-19 supply contract to a shelf company called Drax International.
The company never went through the public tender processes in the awarding of the deal.
It emerged that, Drax International, had invoiced government US$28 for a single disposable mask whose wholesale price was under US$4 from reputable local suppliers.
Moyo’s arrest and subsequent release to date eroded public trust in government’s capacity not only to stem corruption but to fight the pandemic.
Meanwhile, health workers were in constant push for a decent wage and public healthcare institutions were devoid of adequate protective clothing and equipment.
Oxygen ventilators and other essential equipment remains a challenge to this date.
On a positive note, the first lockdown, despite hurting the economy was able to minimize fatalities thanks to collaborative efforts by the government, development partners and well-wishers such as the Higher Life Foundation who donated towards the healthcare system.
However, a second wave of the pandemic was not to be out done as the partial relaxation of lockdown rules towards the end of the year and the ultimate December festivities proved too costly for efforts done during the course of the year.
For perspective, there were a total of 8 981 Covid-19 positive cases, and 261 deaths on 19 November 2020 yet by the 30th of January 2021, the virus had claimed lives of over 1000 people and infected over 33,000 people, according to the Health Ministry.
The infection rate was staggering and a second hard lockdown was inevitable.
Currently, the country has recorded a cumulative total of 36 822 COVID-19 positive cases, 34 603 recoveries and 1 520 deaths.
However, the introduction of vaccines has brought the much needed ray of hope to the global fight and locally, the government efforts to secure vaccines and its general handling of the pandemic have been a beaming example on the Africa continent.
Zimbabwe has approved 4 vaccines for far, Russia’s Sputnik V, China’s Sinovac and Sinopharm and India’s Covaxin vaccines.
The government has procured over 1.7 million vaccines, including a million expected today so far.
While procurement of the vaccine has been commendable, the vaccination rate remains relatively lower than that of other countries in the region.
Just over 44,000 people have been vaccinated so far, representing 68 percent of the target population for the first phase, said Mnangagwa last week.
263Chat will tomorrow give an in-depth analysis on the impact the pandemic has had on the economy since its inception.