I THINK we have been bewitched as a country and whoever has bewitched us, twapapata sana (we are begging), can you think of ‘unwitching’ us otherwise we are a dead nation, says NDC leader Chishimba Kambwili.

And Kambwili says it’s unreasonable for government to re-open casinos and restaurants, leaving bars closed when the conditions in these premises are similar.

On Friday, President Edgar Lungu directed the reopening of cinemas, gyms and casinos in line with “the new normal”, while adhering to the prescribed public health guidelines, regulations and certification.

He further directed the reopening of primary and secondary school examination classes on June 1, adding that Ministry of Health and DMMU should ensure that face masks, hand washing soaps and sanitisers are provided to all schools.

“The new normal means living with COVID-19 just like we have lived with other diseases such as, Malaria, HIV and AIDS, and Tuberculosis, provided we adhere to the prescribed health guidelines, regulations and certification for COVID-19,” said President Lungu.

But in an interview, Kambwili said President Lungu’s “new normal” remarks were careless, adding that Zambia did not have the financial muscle to fight a full blown COVID-19 outbreak.

“That’s a careless statement. We don’t have the financial muscle, the facilities, the hospitals if COVID-19 was fully blown in this country. Let’s be very serious with what we are doing as a country. But I can only appeal to God that let him continue guiding this country and protecting us from COVID because all that has happened up to date is that God has been protecting us. By the way, the numbers that we are getting are fake because we haven’t gone full throttle with the testing. Very few people have been tested,” Kambwili said.

“I find it very unreasonable on the part of the President to open casinos, restaurants and leave the bars closed. You cannot even do social distancing in the casino. If you have been in a casino, it is crowded. One of the things that they have discouraged about this disease is actually smoking. But if you go to a casino, that’s where you find proper smokers. Now what is the purpose of opening up the restaurants and leaving out bars? Its like advantaging certain business houses against the others because in both casinos and restaurants, they sell beer just like beer is sold in bars and taverns.”

Kambwili said it was unreasonable for government to relax prevention measures when cases were on the rise.

“I find it very unreasonable that we can start relaxing these conditions when the cases are going up. What is the rationale behind relaxing the public health conditions that were attached to the fight against COVID-19? For me, there’s more than meets the eye. We are told that some people in government own casinos. So are they relaxing because their casino business has suffered at the expense of others who run bars and restaurants and at the expense of killing people?” he asked.

And Kambwili said if he was President, he could have waited for the cold season to pass before re-opening some sectors.

“We are told that this virus thrives when in cold condition and we are going in the cold season, that’s when the President says pupils in examination classes must go back on June 1. Unless one is not familiar with the situation in the government schools. In government schools today, in one classroom there can be 70, 80 pupils. Those 70, 80 pupils if they catch the virus they will go back to their parents, infect them and communities,” he said.

“So for me, its wrong timing for the President to do what he has done. If I were President, I would have said ‘look, you are saying this pandemic thrives when in cold season’ I would have waited for the cold season to come to an end. In the meantime, those businesses that are closed should have started enjoying certain incentives to help them mitigate what they are going through. You cannot just close bars or businesses forever without proper incentives. [In other countries] where they are closing [businesses], they are giving them proper incentives but here we have sent them into abject poverty. Then you go and open one sector, leaving the other sector when they do one and the same business and the conditions are the same. I think we have been bewitched as a country and whoever has bewitched us, twapapata sana (we beg you), can you think of unwitching us otherwise we are a dead nation.”