Zimbabwe’s senior doctors fume over ‘unscientific’ lockdown extension

HARARE – Zimbabwe’s senior doctors on Wednesday questioned the government’s latest Covid-19 lockdown extension, calling it “unscientific” in the face of declining infections and hospitalisations.

Information minister Monica Mutsvangwa announced Tuesday that the alert level 4 lockdown had been extended by another 14 days – guaranteeing that schools will remain closed at least until September 7, more than two months after they were due to open.

Mutsvangwa said the decision was “necessitated by the realisation that although there has been a notable decrease in the number of Covid-19 infections and deaths, more efforts are required to contain the third wave of the pandemic.”

“We cannot afford to let our guard down until we are all safe. Members of the public are therefore urged to take this opportunity to get vaccinated. It is also important that we continue to wear our masks, social distance and maintain all other preventive measures so that we overcome this pandemic as a nation,” she said.

The Zimbabwe Senior Hospital Doctors Association, in a short statement on Wednesday, criticised the latest extension.

The doctors said: “Data from the ministry of health clearly shows Covid-19 infections well below resurgence threshold. Most Covid hospitals countrywide have significantly reduced admissions. Lockdown has achieved its aims. If we are basing decisions on stats and science, what’s the justification for the extension?”

On Tuesday, Zimbabwe reported 319 new Covid-19 infections and 27 deaths. There were 402 people in hospital with the virus while the number of people who have taken at least one dose of a vaccine topped 2,380,000.

The government has been accused of using the Covid-19 lockdown to narrow the democratic space for opposition parties after imposing a ban on campaign rallies, protests and by-elections during the lockdown.

The lockdown has also hit businesses, with opening hours still limited between 8AM and 5.30PM. Bars remain closed, sporting events are banned and churches have just been allowed to re-open but only for the fully vaccinated. A dusk to dawn curfew is also being enforced by the police.

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