Zimbabwe, like the rest of the world, is battling with the unprecedented effects of the COVID-19 pandemic with 25 positive cases and 3 deaths as at the 18th of April 2020. In response to this pandemic, authorities have undertaken measures to help contain spread of the virus.
On the 17th of March 2020, President Emmerson Mnangagwa declared the COVID-19 a National Disaster through the Statutory Instrument 77 of 2020. He went on to institute a 21-day national lockdown beginning on the 30th of March 2020 whose regulations are espoused in Statutory Instrument 83 of 2020 and subsequently extended by an additional two weeks up to the 3nd of May 2020. These measures were further supported through the liberalization of the use of ‘free funds’ or multi-currency to ease trading in the context of COVID-19 and provided fiscal measures to mitigate against the impacts of COVID-19.
The COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent containment measures come at a time when Zimbabwe is experiencing deepening health woes, multi-faceted socio-economic crisis exacerbated by the effects of Cyclone Idai, two successive seasons of drought and the recent development of a malaria outbreak that has infected 135 000 and killed 131 people.
COVID-19 comes at a time when Zimbabwe is suffering acute food insecurity affecting 7.7 million people, which is nearly half of the population. The nation also suffers crippling energy shortages (fuel and electricity), hyperinflation at 676% in February 2020, local currency depreciation equivalent to 608% since February 2020 and persistently high levels of poverty officially estimated at 34% in 2019 which has risen from 29% in 2018.
Wage compression since October 2019 has effectively eroded wage incomes that normally provide security to numerous households. Thus, both private and public formal workers are as vulnerable as those in the informal sector, raising poverty and vulnerability to unimaginable levels from the estimated 71% in 2017.
The pandemic and subsequent containment measures are most likely to worsen the above unfortunate socio-economic outcomes affecting the people of Zimbabwe. It therefore calls for a thoughtful and careful policy orientation to which the Zimbabwe Council of Churches seeks to contribute towards. The ZCC does this in the full appreciation that the prerogative to manage emergency situation lies with the state while all other actors should be partners.
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Source: Zimbabwe Council of Churches (ZCC)