Business as usual in Byo, calls for social distancing ‘ignored’

If there is anything to worry about in Bulawayo, looking at the threat of the fast-spreading coronavirus, is that residents seem to be continuing with their normal lives as if there is no crisis around us.

The coronavirus (COVID-19) has since claimed one Zimbabwean out of the two confirmed cases recorded in the country so far.

After going through sobering reports from countries hit hard by the pandemic and listening to a Monday night address by President Emmerson Mnangagwa, announcing a new set of measures to combat Covid-19, this morning (Tuesday) I decided to take a longer route to work and observe if people are adhering to the President`s call.

Indeed, the world is going through a difficult time but some people in Bulawayo seem not to be alarmed.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), people should avoid crowded places, and countries such as South Africa, Spain, Italy, the UK have enforced a lockdown following a frightening upsurge of coronavirus cases since last week.

Latest WHO figures indicate 332 930 Coronavirus cases have been confirmed worldwide and 14 510 people have died so far.

Africa has 930 confirmed cases and recorded 23 deaths.

When I arrived in the CBD this morning, I thought there would be minimal activity, but I was met by a hive of activity, with motorists dashing to their respective destinations and going about their usual business.

At the City Hall, there was a traffic jam caused by buses delivering learners from boarding schools following the closure of schools on Tuesday.

Hundreds of pupils could be seen milling around the City Hall’s parking area, welcomed by relatives who received them with hugs and handshakes, oblivious to calls of social distancing.

Adjacent to the City Hall, a totally different scenario played out outside NMB bank where there was a long winding queue of people waiting their turn to withdraw cash.

“In these tough times, we encourage all our customers to make use of our electronic banking channels and internet banking platforms and not to make avoidable visits to our branches. Should there be need to visit our offices or branches, we urge you to practice social distancing,” reads a notice sent to clients by NMB bank.

At the Bulawayo Magistrates Court housed at Tredgold Building, I was greeted by a security officer armed with a hand sanitiser, which I applied before accessing the ever-busy building.

There was less activity, which was encouraging, however metres away from the door, there was a long of queue of people processing their birth certificates and national ID applications.

Moments after observing the packed crowd on the corridor, an official emerged from the office, clad in a face mask and gloves, to bark a few instructions to the queuing crowd.

The Registrar’s office usually a hive of activity, was no different, as people were able to access the services without observing any form of social distancing.

Huge crowds, were seen at ZUPCO pick-up points dotted around the CBD, considering the threat of this global infection, the volume of people in those spots should be limited.

While the Bulawayo City Council (BCC) has had no permanent plan to deal with the menace along Lobengula Street following the closure of Basch Street Terminus there is an urgent need to decongest the area.

Osiphatheleni, who are illegally operating on the streets were out in full force despite a recent wave of arrests by the police to remove them from the streets, continued with their risky business.

Popular leisure spots such as Smoke House have since sent notices of temporary closure to their patrons.

Highlanders Football Club has also notified its fans that it has suspended all group training activities with immediate effect with players and coaching staff being advised to adhere to strict distancing protocols.

“To the multitudes of our fans in Zimbabwe and different parts of the globe, please note that it is better to be lonely than to be exposed. Coronavirus is a reality, lets join hands in fighting against the spread of this deadly virus,” said the club’s executive chairman Kenneth Mhlophe.

In his address to the nation, President Mnangagwa urged businesses to decongest workplaces, while ordering bars, swimming pools, gymnasiums to remain closed.

Borders have been shut save for returning residents and cargo. Public gatherings limits are pegged at 50 people.

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