By Dr. Jonas Chanda
I fully support measures just announced by His Excellency President Edgar Chagwa Lungu on the Corona virus disease in Zambia and the “NEW NORMAL” we have to learn to live with, just as we have learned to live with other deadly diseases like Malaria, HIV/AIDS, TB, which actually infect and kill many more people than Covid-19.
The novel Corona virus has affected almost every country on earth with adverse impact on people’s health, livelihoods and economies. However, health experts have stated that the disease is not going to disappear any time soon and others say Corona virus will be with us for a minimum of 2 years, and RECURRENCES cannot be ruled out.
As the President stated, prolonged total or partial local downs will have DEVASTATING EFFECTS ON NATIONS’ ECONOMIES from which recovery may take many years. Borders for a landlocked country like Zambia cannot remain TOTALLY shut as some have called for, and neither should there be prolonged delays in the flow of EXPORTS and IMPORTS, otherwise the economy can collapse with dire consequences. Manufacturing companies, hotel and tourism industry, wholesale and retail shops, bars and restaurants have to gradually open up as failure to do so will result in further loss of jobs and tax revenues for Government, thus affecting Government’s capacity to provide essential services like buying of drugs and equipment in hospitals, paying civil servants’ salaries, meeting debt servicing obligations, etc.
The President has similarly highlighted the devastating effects of the partial lockdown we’ve had on schools, colleges, universities, small businesses (restaurants, bars), cinemas, gyms, etc.
Even the most affecred countries like China, Japan, South Korea, Britain, Italy, Spain, Germany, France, USA and South Africa are all beginning to EASE RESTRICTIONS in a PHASED MANNER just like the President has announced while emphasizing on preventive measures against Covid-19. Most European Parliaments are meeting with social distancing, European football leagues will be restarting this month-end, airlines are beginning to fly with mandatory face masking and other preventive measures, manufacturing, retail and wholesale companies are beginning to open up. In short, life is beginning to “normalise” under the “NEW NORMAL” created by Covid-19.
Like the President stated, all measures in the “NEW NORMAL” are subject to PUBLIC HEALTH GUIDELINES like HYGIENE PRACTICES (washing hands with soap and water or alcohol based hand sanitizers), SOCIAL DISTANCING, MANDATORY WEARING OF FACE MASKS in PUBLIC (in retail shops, markets, public transport, schools, church gatherings), NO SHAKING OF HANDS and NOT TOUCHING THE FACE, MOUTH OR NOSE WITHOUT WASHING HANDS.
In addition, health experts and other key stakeholders have to prioritize COMMUNITY SENSITIZATION and EDUCATION, SCREENING, QUARANTINE, accessible TESTING, CONTACT TRACING among clusters, ISOLATION, and TREATMENT.
The Author is the Ruling Patriotic Front (PF) Member of Parliament for Bwana Mkubwa Constituency in Ndola