THE Zambia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ZACCI) has urged government to immediately initiate a lock-down to protect consumers and businesses in the country against the adverse effects of the Coronavirus pandemic.

In a written submission to Vice-President Inonge Wina, ZACCI president Chabuka Kawesha proposed that government should enforce a lock down starting with bars, markets, and restricting small minibuses to no more than 6 passengers on board at a given time.

Kawesha suggested that government could also decide to either implement a partial lock down for a full three weeks without a break or a full lock down of 32 days with a three-day break and only allow retail outlets, pharmacies, Zesco outlets and gas stations, among others, to be operating during this time.

“The overdue lock down will require deliberate round-the-clock surveillance of business premises and neighbourhoods to protect property and lives as criminals may try to take advantage. Authorities need to ensure all security wings are on high alert with police and army (if need be) deployed to patrol and instil a sense of security and stability in the country. Depending on the type of lock down, government should ensure strict adherence to protocols as required of such a lock down to avoid slackening of those assigned with responsibilities at all ports of entry, airports and water bodies included,” Kawesha stated.

He asked government to actualize social distancing by immediately banning gatherings of over three people, suspending sports activities and entertainment places for the duration of the preferred lock down.

“As citizens, we will not lose anything by staying away from a bar. We need to be better prepared before looking to external assistance. Even one death or three patients should be weighed with the seriousness it deserves. We can see that the COVID-19 is different to what we are used to so our approach should be different. There should be mandatory quarantining of all people coming into Zambia, including returning residents. Gaps and lapses have been observed at airports and other ports of entry, where a number of people are not being thoroughly scrutinized. We have to close bars and markets now! The pandemic is now in its 3rd or 4th (month) and we don’t understand why areas that promote zero social distancing are still opening. We need to heed from the international best practices in China, Japan, Korea, India and others on how they are controlling the spread of COVID-19. Relocate them to more spacious locations like school spot fields. No more than 15 marketeers should be allowed in each school spots field and they should be widely spaced and closely supervised by council and healthcare inspectors. Residents will know that school sports grounds are housing marketeers,” Kawesha submitted.

“There is also need to decongest and close bus stations as well as fully close main bus stations like Masala [in (Ndola), Intercity [in Lusaka] etc. and redistribute service providers by residential area/radius. The Councils must set up daily registration points, preferably at a school ground where the five time-buses will be authorities in each residential area they must register every morning before they commence operations. And in line with messages coming from the international church mother bodies concerning suspension of church gathering. International best practices in promoting social distancing calls for short-term suspension of gatherings. The churches must be encouraged to transmit their services or masses online. Further, ZNBC must allocate one to two hours specifically for prayers, which can be commissioned immediately. Each faith or religion can within the one to two hours communicate with their followers.”

He added that there was need to put in place a public-private task force to support the Council of Ministers set by President Edgar Lungu to regularly communicate and further allow the participation of the private sector.

“Private sectors and Chambers across the country feel government must remodel its messaging and daily briefs through and who are the front-line spokesperson (s) over this particular pandemic. The crisis is medical in nature and to contain misinformation on the situation within the country, yes, we applaud government on the updates thus far, but let the appropriate medical experts cover the holdings and undertake daily updates, these being and notably: the Minister of Health, Secretary to the Cabinet (SC) and Director(s) from the Zambia National Public Health Institute (ZNPHI). Contact can be made at least once or twice every week until situation normalizes. This is to keep a close eye on the evolving situation and have a multi-sectoral effective response,” he stated.

He further submitted there was need to ensure that every police checkpoint and Toll-gate points should have medical personnel undertaking temperature and other relevant tests across the country, adding that no government vehicles must be allowed to pass police check points without going through the test procedures.

And Kawesha stated that the bulk of prisoners should be relocated for work at State-owned farms across the country for agricultural activities in smaller groups for the next six months as a way of realizing social distancing.

“During the same period, they [prisoners] can clear land in excess of 900 hectares and plant cassava, beans, soya beans, vegetables and many drought resistant crops the nation prepares and avoid hunger situation that can be triggered due to the global pandemic and restricted movements. There is also need to decongest refugee camps. Utilize freed-up school classroom across various locations and cities as temporal accommodation to allow social distancing. And temporally for a period of 21 or 31 days, suspend road passenger cross-border movement and only allow cargo transit,” Kawesha submitted.

Meanwhile, ZACCI urged government to temporarily suspend duties and taxes on all imported critical healthcare products and equipment, soap, washing detergents, hygienic and critical supplies, including inputs for front-line industries like the mines and manufacturers).

“Further mandate all drug, soap, sanitizer manufacturers and importers as well as face mask and glove manufacturers or importers in the country to increase production and supply of these necessary requirements on a large scale. As reciprocal, government pass some fiscal and non-fiscal incentives to the manufacturers and traders. Government must make affordable by removing all local and import taxes on toilet papers and sanitary products deemed as an important necessity during the pandemic. Just like dust masks and protective clothing are duty free at port of entry into the country. Remove duty and VAT on all products required to sanitize the nation; mops, brooms, gloves, hand sanitizers…To support job preservation, we call upon government to reduce VAT from 16 per cent to 10 per cent for all transactions from 1st April to June, 2020. This will allow business to channel the savings back into staff retention and manufacturers for increased production. The matter of ZRA meeting its targets should not be an issue and we need the wheels of industry to continue running,” submitted Kawesha.