By Habakkuk Trust
Social distancing measures have been disregarded in most supermarkets as starving citizens queue for basic commodities. While some shops have instituted preventative measures to curb the spread of COVID-19, including sanitizing hands, reducing the number of people inside the shop at a given time and checking temperature for every customer at the entrance; little is being done to ensure social distancing is practiced.
The presence of law enforcement officers has been noted in some shops and their role has largely involved maintenance of public order especially in mealie meal queues with limited efforts in enforcing social distancing.
Habakkuk Trust has been monitoring the COVID-19 lockdown period since it began. The organization continues to monitor government and citizen actions during this period and has noted the following issues as requiring urgent redress:
1. Daily queues in nearly every suburb of Bulawayo as residents scramble and jostle to buy mealie meal. Some of the queues have over 100 people and social distancing is not practiced.
2. Police may be present in these queues but their major role is maintaining peace and order while social distancing is not being enforced.
Habakkuk Trust notes with grave concern that these mealie meal queues expose thousands of residents to the risk of Coronavirus infection. This concern also comes at a time when government authorities have confirmed that the nation has very few testing centres and health institutions set aside for infectious diseases in Bulawayo are not adequately equipped to deal with any COVID-19 cases.
In light of the recent COVID-19 fatality recorded in the City of Bulawayo this week, Habakkuk Trust is calling for coordinated efforts between the police, shop owners and the public health officials to ensure social distancing is practiced in queues for essential commodities as this will assist to minimize the community spread of COVID-19. The organization is also calling for the speeding up of provision of food for the vulnerable groups and availability of subsidized mealie meal.
The prevailing situation in queues around the city is threatening to undermine the worth of social distancing thus rendering the lockdown useless while sparking a public health disaster.