PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa on Wednesday hinted strongly that he would extend the lockdown beyond this Sunday to contain the spread of the new coronavirus saying his priority was to save lives.
Zimbabwe has been in lockdown since March 30, with the present restrictions due to end on Sunday, but Mnangagwa intimated that he would rather “err on the side of caution than carelessness”.
“We had the first lockdown, which I extended by 14 days, when you came, I was thinking about what happens after the lockdown ends,” Mnangagwa said at State House where he was receiving donations towards the fight against COVID-19, adding that the “economy can always be addressed later”.
“We have been with this challenge, what do we do?
“Balancing the need for economic growth or saving the lives of the people?
“I came to the conclusion that if citizens die, if our people die, we cannot resuscitate them.
“The economy can die, it can be resuscitated now or in the future, as long as people are alive.”
“There can always be conferences on how we can resuscitate our economy, but I have never seen a conference where people will be discussing how they could resuscitate the dead.
“So, our bias is towards preservation of life.”
The country has recorded 32 cases of coronavirus infections with four deaths from just over 6 000 tests, but medical personnel have said testing remained too low to get a clear picture of the situation in the country but acknowledge that an extended lockdown would hurt its already faltering economy.
According to the International Monetary Fund, Zimbabwe’s economy will shrink by 7,4% this year as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak, after contracting by 7.5% last year.
Zimbabwe, which was already experiencing its worst economic crisis in more than a decade, has been struggling to respond to the crisis, with the government failing to buy personal protective equipment for its medical personnel at the frontline and to provide a stimulus package to industry and vulnerable groups.
Its struggle illustrates the problem faced by African governments on the need to balance their response to the worst public health crisis in over a century and keeping fragile economies alive.
West African nation Ghana lifted its lockdown in the capital Accra and the second biggest city of Kumasi but a week later last Sunday reported a record 271 new COVID-19 in the two cities in one day.
“The primary objective is to give priority to serving life. I have been studying the events worldwide, how governments handled the pandemic, some border on the lines of carelessness, some on over cautiousness,” Mnangagwa said.
“So, we must find a way, a way in my view, to err on the side of caution than ere on the side of carelessness.”
Mnangagwa is, however, expected to open more areas of the economy next week while gatherings could remain barred and borders closed.