By now it has dawned on all Zimbabweans that the Coronavirus 2019 (Covid-19) threat is real. The pandemic is not only claiming lives throughout the world, but is hurting economies and decimating livelihoods.
People who earn a living by selling their wares on street corners find themselves stuck at home. Plumbers and carpenters who knock on every door while looking for jobs, now find themselves unwelcome.
The 21-day lockdown which began yesterday, is a painful yet necessary drill that will in the end save dozens, if not hundreds of lives.
Mindful of the pain Zimbabweans went through yesterday in trying to adjust to this new way of life, President Mnangagwa took time to address the nation and offer words of comfort and strength.
“In life we all must face problems and challenges which are beyond our making, that have been forced upon us.
“Currently, Covid-19 is no longer a mere challenge in many countries around the world. It is far worse than a mere challenge, an out of control problem, in fact a pandemic that is taking thousands of lives daily.
“I say this not to induce fear in your hearts, but that you appreciate the gravity of the situation,” the President said at the start of his address, before assuring the nation of enough stocks of food, medicine, fuel and other essentials.
“I have declared a 21-day lockdown to stop the spread of this virus which has leached our land, the lockdown began today.
“During these 21 days, Government will work tirelessly to make sure that we are ready to face all scenarios. We must make sure that our medical teams are equipped and protected and that our hospitals are fully prepared. That our citizens are ready.
“Let’s be clear, food supplies and food stores will remain available and open. Medical supplies will remain open and available. A list of vital industries will ensure that the lights remain on, and that the economy’s heart continues to beat, even if it is at a much slower pace.”
President Mnangagwa’s assurances came after Treasury had also assured business that the economy was being kept alive.
Mitigatory interventions covering both prevention and support to productive sectors include fiscal resource mobilisation which has seen Treasury avail over ZWL$100 million to fight against Covid-19.
Capital expenditure allocations under the 2020 National Budget are being redirected towards health-related expenditures, including water supply and sanitation programmes.
Implementation of selected priority programmes and projects to sustain the economy, Treasury assured, will not stop during the 21-day lockdown. These include roads and dam construction, irrigation and water and sanitation projects.
“The 2 percent Intermediated Money Transfer Tax (IMTT) which is currently ring-fenced for social protection and capital development projects and hence, will ordinarily be channelled towards Covid-19 related mitigatory expenditures.
“Additional resources will constitute some cuts from respective Ministry allocations/budgets and details are being worked out. Treasury has issued a Circular of 20 March 2020 instructing line Ministries to identify areas for cuts and areas for redirecting expenditures,” Treasury further said.
Other measures include relief to productive sectors, expediting corporate tax refunds and requests for extension, expediting VAT refunds and suspension of duties on Covid-19 essential goods
In recognition of the significance of the health sector, Government has availed a number of tax incentives for production and importation of essential drugs and health related capital equipment, as well as other medical supplies.
These measures by Government will reduce the economic and social impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as save lives.
On their part, citizens must play ball. The President and his Government will continue to communicate and act on new challenges that may arise.
Yesterday was the first day of this painful journey which we must all embark on if we are to survive. So far, the leadership has been impressive.