Zimbabwe: Downtown Harare Covid-19 Ticking Time Bomb

Downtown Harare is no longer one of the good places to be. Everything there points to a ticking Covid-19 time bomb premised on a casual approach in the teeming streets where everything seems to be going against the grain of Government's sustained efforts to contain the spread of the disease.

Here everything goes from maize roasting along the unkempt streets, wafting smell from uncollected rubbish, a spread of prescription drugs being sold on the pavements, ghostly figures of people flouting Covid-19 containment regulations, metre after metres of wares being sold on the pavements, all speak to a council whose management wheels have fallen off.

With the MDC-run Harare City council having brought service delivery rattling to its knees, congestion, unkempt streets, illegal commuter terminuses, street display and selling of unprescribed drugs, albeit without prescription, is certainly a recipe for disaster.

Where it is now, its a matter of when but as to when, only time will tell.

Recently, the Government reintroduced lockdown restrictions as part of wider efforts to contain rising coronavirus cases in the country.

Announcing the reintroduction of the lockdown on national television, Vice President Constantino Chiwenga said complacency had resulted in a recent spike in cases of the coronavirus responsible for the Covid-19 disease.

However, despite calls for the public to adopt safety measures, a different scenario is playing out in the Central Business District of Harare (CBD) as vendors, illegal money changers, and mushikashikas are operating as usual, breaking the Covid-19 regulations.

It seems as if people are reluctant to abide by the Covid-19 regulations as they usually have their masks dropped down or not putting them on a situation seen in down town area around market square and gulf complex.

Very few of these vendors, mushikashika money changers will have PPE's no other than face masks or face shields meaning they are not using any hand sanitisers but are in close contact with other people while in exchange of goods or money.

Rising cases of Covid-19 require us all to play our part as responsible citizens.

All this means that political leaders, health experts, celebrities, neighbours, vendors, money changers, mushikashika operators and all people are being called upon to act responsibly in order to slow the spread of the virus and to minimise the damaging effects of the pandemic.

The reckless and selfish behaviour witnessed around the capital is worrying.

Many vendors, street hawkers, mushikashika operators and other people continue to dodge their responsibility in these difficult times, when fears of a third wave of the pandemic abound. Individuals should start to make responsible choices to begin with as the fight against the pandemic is not for the Government alone or other entities.

Fighting Covid-19 is everyone's responsibility. Despite raids by the both the municipal and ZRP, vendors and street hawkers still continue to ply their trade without observing Covid-19 safety precautions.

The cat-and-mouse game continue to play out with many of them showing reckless and selfish behaviour, a cause for concern in the fight against the pandemic.

Other vendors walk around town with their goods and products such as fruits and soft drinks, while other sell on road sides in main roads like Samora Machel.

Fruit and vegetable vendors or street hawkers are all over the CBD.

The Government has through its various arms made a heartfelt appeal to the nation, stressing that breaking the chain of infection requires that "we all behave sensibly" and adhere to all safety precautions.

Despite this, many vendors, street hawkers, mushikashika operators and other people continue to behave irresponsibly.

While may people are adhering to the regulations, these traders continue to be reckless and inconsiderate in their actions.

Many of them are quite ignorant to the council by-laws which prohibit selling of products and wares in undesignated areas.

Many touts continue to sell second clothing, commonly known as "mabhero" in areas around Construction House and Kwame Nkrumah Street.

To curb this pandemic and protect ourselves there is need for extreme hygiene but there are some parts in the CBD that are heavily littered and some public toilets are very dirty.

The public toilets along Bank Street and Leopold Takawira Street are now a dumping site and shockingly some vendors are operating just opposite the toilets.

Commuter omnibuses operating legally under "ZUPCO" are carrying 18 passengers excluding the conductor and driver, a situation whereby decongestion should be emphasised.

Transport has been a challenge yes but it is of great concern how the "mushikashika" are over-loading people in their vehicles with regards to social distancing that should be done.

The mushikashika is dominant in the CBD along Leopold Takawira, Julia Zvobgo, Joseph Msika and Chinhoyi streets as well as along Robert Mugabe Road where commuter omnibuses not operating under ZUPCO banner continue to ply their illegal trade.

Business is as operating as usual within the CBD and most food outlets are maintaining social distancing, properly sanitizing clients, maintaining hygiene and closing down at 6pm as required.

Boutiques, saloons, retail and wholesale shops are also operating well making use of the Covid-19 regulations. Most of them have proper PPE's and sanitise people immediately upon entering the shop and are maintaining the proper working hours.

Shopping malls like Kwame Mall, Shasha and Fourways are making use of proper sanitisation and avoiding overcrowding the malls. Many people worry about a full lockdown as this would deprive them off their livelihoods. People are operating their businesses and day to day activities without much evidence of decongestion in the CBD.

Traffic peaks during the early hours of the day around 7-8 am on major roads and around the CBD but eases during the day except some parts of downtown where it is always busy and congested.

After working hours, there is scramble for transport at most public terminals while others jostle at some undesignated pick up points along all major city roads.

The issue of transport challenges has been a major concern ever since the phasing out of most commuter omnibuses and robbers have taken advantage of mugging people as most will be desperate for transport.

All these examples reveal some of the challenges the Government has faced in making the public take responsibility.

As consumers we have been told that there is no need to panic. The flow of life and the goods required to sustain it will continue pretty much undisturbed.

If people continue with their old ways they pose a danger to themselves and others and those who are vulnerable.

Reckless behaviour is not helping us to stop the virus. Masking up, sanitising and maintaining social distance is critical in slowing down the spread of the pandemic.

While the capital still faces dilemma on compliance with the new measures, there is need to maintain a delicate balance between collective and individual responsibility to fight the spike in Covid cases.

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