STATE OF THE NATION UPDATE ADDRESS BY HIS EXCELLENCY THE PRESIDENT, CDE EMMERSON DAMBUDZO MNANGAGWA, ON THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC
Once more I come back to you with further updates on the situation regarding the spread of the coronavirus, as well as on the measures we, as Government, continue to take in response.
As I address you, well over 500 000 cases of infections have been recorded worldwide. Of these, almost 25 000 deaths have now been recorded.
Worldwide, recovery of severe cases remains slow, with possibilities of relapses being recorded in some parts of the world.
The situation thus remains dire, emphasising to us all that the world is far from turning the corner.
To date, Zimbabwe has recorded 5 cases; one in Victoria Falls and the other four in Harare.
As you are aware, we lost one of our citizens to the virus: a bright and promising young man who today personifies the tragedy wrought by this virus, and what can happen to our hopes and promises for the future, in the absence of due diligence.
While our numbers are both low and for now all imported, this need not induce complacency in us. Covid-19 is now upon us and, if experience elsewhere is anything to go by, can spread in leaps and bounds in so short a time.
We are worried that even as our numbers remain low, there is a possibility of wider community spread and transmissions.
Further, in about two months’ time winter will be upon us, creating conditions ideal for more infections. We thus need to take decisive measures NOW against the pandemic, well ahead of likely danger.
I have already indicated that some of the measures will be drastic and are sure to upset the daily routines of our lives as we have lived it until now.
But they have to be taken, with new restrictive routines internalised by all of us, regardless of position in society.
After all, the virus knows no class, colour, creed, tribe or region. In that regard, discriminating against, or profiling other sections of our community is unnecessary, in fact counter-productive.
Following this week’s Government decision to create an Ad-hoc Inter-Ministerial Taskforce on Covid-19, I have received a handful of situational reports and recommendations from the said Taskforce, including a slew of recommendations, which were tabled today.
The reports point to continued potential grave threats to our Nation, thus requiring that we take further new preventive measures that will help us lessen the risk to all people.
Starting Monday 30th March, 2020, and subject to further review, Zimbabwe will be under a total lockdown for a period of 21 days.
This means all our citizens are required to stay at home, except of course in respect of essential movements related to seeking health services; to the purchase and procurement of food and medicines, and for other essential supplies and critical services.
Workers manning our essential services, including health services and outlets, emergency and security services, as well as operation of key utilities like power and water, are exempt from this directive.
To ensure strict compliance, I have directed the National Command Element of our Security Arms to deploy as appropriate in support of Civilian Authority.
Only Civil Servants on duty, in line with decisions and directives of the Public Service Commission, Heads of Ministries and the Ad-hoc Taskforce on Covid-19, will be allowed unrestricted movement.
While funerals will be exempt from the Directive, numbers in attendance should not exceed 50. Visits to hospitals and clinics remain as earlier announced, that is, one visitor per patient, per day.
Motorists seeking to refuel will not be allowed to leave their vehicles.
In respect of open-air markets, only food-related markets will be allowed to operate during this period, even then under watch and direction of health personnel.
Markets and stalls trading in non-food items or commodities will stand closed. Should it become necessary, security forces may be deployed to assist in the enforcement of these and other measures, and for the maintenance of order at these markets.
Until further notice, all public transport operations will stand suspended. Only ZUPCO and Public Service Commission buses will be exempt from the directive.
Even then, all ZUPCO and PSC buses are required to observe and enforce social distance and disinfection guidelines in the course of offering their services.
To the extent that water and ablution services are key to fighting the pandemic, Government and Local Authorities will step up efforts to ensure regular and reliable water supplies to all residential areas. Equally, Municipalities are expected to ensure smooth refuse collection and sewer reticulation services in all areas.
Since information is key to the fight against the pandemic, I have directed Ministries of Health and Child Care and that of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services to work closely together in ensuring that our communities are kept aware and comprehensively informed about the pandemic.
To that end, a toll-free hotline, 2-0-1-9, has been activated for this period and beyond.
To ensure that our hospitals are not overwhelmed, and that other normal hospital services are not compromised, more separate treatment and isolation units and facilities will be established either on hospital sites or on other identified centres, whether public or private as designated by the Minister of Health and Child Care.
To expedite testing and diagnostics services, Government will decentralise Covid-19 testing services to provincial hubs throughout the country.
In light of restricted international traffic and trade in goods and services, Government will galvanise and support local industries, as well as institutions of higher learning, to produce what we can locally.
This includes the manufacture of medicines, sanitisers, personal protective equipment and the setting up of temporary isolation facilities for use during the Emergency.
Let me take this opportunity to thank our business people and international partners for their continued support in our campaign against the virus.
Fellow Zimbabweans, the tasks at hand are huge and varied, and do require maximum discipline and support from all of us.
Above all, they require that we put hands on the deck to ensure our response is truly national.
Now is the time to show unity of purpose, and to put aside unnecessary divisions.
We need peace in our land; we need law and order; above all, we need solidarity and compassion.
As I said in my last address, Government will come down heavily on businesses and individuals alike who dare take advantage of the situation our nation finds itself in, to engage in unscrupulous, rent-seeking behaviour and corrupt activities.
No one should be found hoarding food and other essential commodities.
The long arm of the law will ensure that all those who do not take heed of this warning are brought to book without fear or favour.
Furthermore, legal instruments are being put in place to deal with and punish those who cause unnecessary alarm and despondency through social and other media, during this emergency. We all need to act responsibly.
I continue to appeal to our employers to support and show compassion towards their workforce during these trying times.
On its part, Government continues to explore more ways of supporting businesses and the economy to avert a recession.
In conclusion, let me once more stress the need for us all to act responsibly, and to maintain high levels of personal hygiene as directed by our health experts. Only that way will we ensure our families are safe and secure.
May God bless us and give us the strength to go through this difficult patch.