THE management of the Covid-19 pandemic in Zambia is worrying to say the least. It is worrying that our government seems more interested in the politics of the day than the life and death decisions they should be making as first responders to the Covid crisis. We say that they are the first responders because it is the government that has the responsibility to put in place policy mechanisms to respond to the threat of Covid 19.
We are in the third wave of the Covid pandemic, and yet the government is behaving as if we have been hit by an unexpected bolt of lightning. An averagely qualified health professional would have told the government at the end of the second wave to prepare for the worst in relation to the possibility of a third wave, whilst hoping for the best. That is just common sense. But our government seems to have gone to sleep when the second wave started slowing down. But look at how we have been ravaged by the third wave today!
If their numbers are to be believed, and 460 people have died in one week, from a disease that did not exist in this country at the beginning of this year, this is a huge crisis. To put what is happening into some perspective, 50 to 70 people dying daily from one disease alone, is the equivalent of having a fatal bus accident that kills that number of people every day. If we had such fatal road accidents every day and they killed that many people, we would expect the government to put in place very stringent measures to arrest the situation. Buses my even stop moving until the cause is arrested. But this is not what we are seeing from the first responders – our government . They are doing what little they can while adopting the “fikaisova” mentality. They expect Covid-19 to disappear on its own.
Look at the lack of leadership in relation to the important question of reopening of schools and institutions of higher learning. On the same day, we had one ministry of government saying institutions of higher learning should close in view of the Covid situation, and yet another ministry of the same government was saying primary and secondary schools should open on Thursday this week. What is happening? What kind of leadership is that? These are things that should have been sorted out by now.
The reason why statistics are kept is so that the records can provide policy makers with information that enables them to formulate and implement policy responses to public problems. What is so difficult about the government formulating a system that tells them that if the positivity rate in the Covid-19 tests exceeds a certain threshold or indeed falls below a certain threshold, certain action should be taken? Did we have to wait until our mortuaries and our graveyards are overrun to start doing anything? Do we have guidelines for when schools should be closed on opened in this pandemic? What about bars?
Our government leaders should not be so removed from this crisis. We don’t want them to simply talk, we want to see them walk the talk. As we draw closer to the polling date, it is important that more and more citizens are encouraged to get vaccinated. That is one sure way in which we can reduce the number of ghost voters that we will have this year owing to the Covid mortality. Unfortunately, our leaders are not willing to take the lead.
People are willing to get vaccinated, but there is still a good number of citizens who are apprehensive about it because of the myths that they have heard surrounding the vaccine. This is the point when leaders are expected to show up and demonstrate their willingness. But we have a President and Vice-President who do not want to lead by example.
When we ask why the President is not taking that route, we are told it is his prerogative which he can exercise at his discretion. When we ask why he is not addressing the nation, we are told that he will address the people when he finds it necessary. This gives impression that we are operating on autopilot with no leadership in State House.
There are critical questions which a Head of State is expected to answer under the prevailing circumstances. President Lungu, and the relevant line ministries must take time to give an official position on the concerns that the public is raising.
How many quarantine bed spaces are available countrywide?
How many ICU beds are available countrywide?
How many people with COVID-19 are in need of ventilators and how many ICUs in the country have ventilators?
How much oxygen is available for patients?
How much capacity does the country have to produce oxygen and what would it take to ramp up production for anticipated increased demand?
Do we have enough personal protective equipment for medical staff?
What is the testing capacity and how can that be increased?
Which kind of vaccine is the government encouraging people to take and how available is it?
What is the plan in terms of ramping up manpower in the health facilities.
How can qualified health personnel that are not employed help?
This is very vital information for the government to provide. When the President makes a public address to talk about the issues raised above, donors (local and abroad) will know where to direct their efforts. As it was observed recently, companies were busy donating hand sanitizers, when in fact the country was in dire need of oxygen. People wouldn’t know unless someone stands up to talk.
Please Mr. President it is time to lead!