The Harare Residents Trust (HRT) has been closely following and monitoring the world pandemic of COVID-19. From our community observations and interviews with HRT members across the suburbs, there is a detrimental information gap. Residents have confessed ignorance about how the coronavirus is spread, prevented and what key actions to take when suspecting infection. The HRT also observes the need for coordinated effort between the central government and the Harare City Council in trying to contain the virus. This statement highlights the observations made and makes recommendations on how to keep the people safer from the coronavirus.
The coronavirus spreads through droplets of saliva or discharge from the nose when an infected person coughs or sneezes. When these droplets are dispersed on surfaces, people can pick them by touching the infected surfaces and then their faces or mouths. Thus, people are encouraged to wash hands regularly, cover their mouths with elbows when coughing, stop touching their faces and maintain distance between each other. From our observations the general Harare populace is yet to adopt these preventive measures. Zimbabwe recorded its first covid-19 case on Friday 20 March 2020.
The government needs to work with Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in carrying out joint education and awareness campaigns. These campaigns can bridge the aforementioned knowledge gap and lives will be saved. The outreach programs can be undertaken in places like bus termini, market places and shopping centres where people are still congregating in large numbers. Although the HRT commends the move to close all our borders for incoming foreigners, the HRT has noted with concern that Zimbabwean nationals arriving from high-risk countries are not going under thorough examination. A mandatory period of quarantine in line with World Health Organisation’s guidelines needs to be undertaken for such persons.
Reports of doctors and nurses downing tools point to the need for full support of frontline healthcare workers. The number of passengers travelling in public transport, particularly the ZUPCO buses also needs to be limited. The Harare City Council also needs to supply water to all residential and industrial areas constantly so that residents are able to regularly wash their hands as required. Very few can afford the hand sanitisers being sold by most pharmacies in US Dollars. The central and local authorities have significant roles to play in curbing the spread of coronavirus.
Source: Harare Residents Trust (HRT)