Business, Farmers, Employers Urge Review Of Lockdown, Offer Solutions

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By Robert Tapfumaneyi

ZIMBABWE business executives and employers have appealed to government to review operating hours, coupled with the emergency authorisation of the Anti-Parasite Drug Ivermectin (Human Form) for the prevention and treatment of Covid-19.

In a letter to acting President and Health Minister Constantino Chiwenga, business member organisations namely, Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI), Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce (ZNCC) and Commercial Farmers Union (CFU) outlined the challenges they were facing and also provided solutions to remedy the situation.

They said they were ready for a virtual meeting with policy makers if need be.

“Companies are having difficulties in testing their employees for Covid-19 infection due to high costs associated with testing done by some private laboratories ranging from US$50 to US$65 per employee,” said Demos Mbauya, First vice president of the Employers’ Confederation of Zimbabwe on behalf of business and employers.

“We humbly request the authorities to assist the private sector to procure PCR and rapid antigen testing kits at affordable low cost.

“As mentioned above, we thank the authorities for introducing the current lockdown to contain the spread of the virus and save lives.

“In order to improve on productivity, we humbly request for a review of business operating hours (opening 7am and closing 4pm for manufacturing, 8am to 5pm for supermarkets and other retail outlets) to reduce overcrowding.

“Curfew hours to run from 7pm to 5am to allow movement of those in essential services to travel from home to work and back ahead of curfew hours.”

Mbauya added, “Drivers entrusted with the responsibility of driving other employees should be exempted from curfew hours to facilitate their travelling from work to home.”

The employers also noted that exemption letters from line ministries were not easily accessible as most line ministry staff was currently working from home yet at roadblocks, lockdown enforcement teams were still demanding the exemption letters.

On the use of emergency authorisation of the Anti-Parasite Drug Ivermectin (Human Form), they said there was increasing evidence that the anti-parasite drug ivermectin had the potential to improve outcomes for patients affected by Covid-19.

“It also protects/prevents infection of both high-risk individuals such as health care workers and those exposed to contacts of persons infected with Covid-19,” Mbauya said.

“Also from the evidence available, it has been shown that it can reduce the need for hospitalisation as it shortens the healing time.

“Countries that have used protocols including ivermectin include Peru and India.

“Peru reported to have flattened its second wave curve in three weeks against typical eight weeks.”

On awareness, business expressed concern some locals were not adhering to Covid-19 measures, a case in point being wearing of face masks especially in residential and rural areas.

“Infected people and their contacts may not be strictly following protocols. We encourage the Rapid Testing at roadblocks. We notice that rapid testing is taking place at selected roadblocks,” they said.

“Our concerns are on the risk of further spread of infections and delays caused on the road. We believe that this approach may lead to more infections than it stops through the resulting building up of people at roadblocks.

“We also foresee significant delays at roadblocks resulting from this. We therefore respectfully request that this initiative is put on hold.”