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Govt response not inspiring yet

After withering criticism of its lackadaisical approach to the coronavirus outbreak, the government has started responding in a very dangerous and bizarre fashion.

editorial comment

After withering criticism of its lackadaisical approach to the coronavirus outbreak, the government has started responding in a very dangerous and bizarre fashion.

The authorities started inviting large delegations from interest groups that included business and church leaders that stampeded to State House to discuss a response to the outbreak.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa presided over a number of meetings to discuss the role the interest groups can play in preventing the spread of the disease that is wreaking havoc across the globe since it was first discovered in China late last year.

This was a big mistake. Large gatherings, including meetings, are strongly discouraged and the government should be leading by example dispensing with the pointless get-togethers.

Mnangagwa also drove through Harare’s high-density suburbs ostensibly to check how ordinary people were coping under the 21-day lockdown he decreed last month to stop the spread of the highly infectious disease.

He was greeted by long queues of residents at communal water points or at supermarkets where they were scrambling for mealie meal, which is in short supply.

The lockdown, which is one of Zimbabwe’s most viable ways to stop mass infections alongside social distancing and maintaining very high hygiene standards, has exposed the depths of poverty among the local population.

Almost a week after that “assessment” by Mnangagwa, the government has said nothing about how it intends to help residents avoid risking their lives by scrambling for water and mealie meal, disregarding the call for social distancing.

Instead government officials were preoccupied with lining up organisations at State House to present donations to the president towards the fight against the coronavirus, also known as Covid-19.

As more and more pictures of Mnangagwa and his two deputies receiving even the smallest kinds of donations emerged, it became clear that it was all about the optics.

The fight against the spread of the virus, which has already infected 13 people and resulted in the death of three citizens, according to government records, demands that the response should go beyond photo opportunities.

Zimbabwe’s testing rates remain woefully low with about 463 people having been tested as of Friday.

The Health and Child Care ministry’s contact tracing has also been questioned by doctors.

Bureaucrats should understand that a public health emergency like the one Zimbabwe, and indeed the world, is facing requires serious actions on the ground, not posturing.

Citizens want to know what they need to do when they start exhibiting coronavirus symptoms and whether they would receive proper treatment within their communities.

In the weeks before Zimbabwe recorded its first coronavirus case, government officials fed the state-controlled-media with lies that the country was ready to handle any likely outbreak of the disease.

Now that the disease is upon us, they want to perpetuate the propaganda that they are doing something to stem the spread of the virus by organising photo opportunities for the president.

This should stop forthwith and those charged with delivering a coherent response to the disease outbreak must be seen doing so without the meaningless photo shoots.