THE Government yesterday took delivery of 500 000 doses of the Sinopharm vaccine, with a further two million expected from China this week, as authorities target to procure more than seven million vaccines by end of next month.
This puts Government in a firm position to procure the 10 million vaccines required to attain herd immunity before year-end.
Authorities are also planning to make vaccination compulsory for certain groups of people.
Distribution of the latest consignment will be carried out systematically, with hotspots such as border towns, areas that are currently under intensified lockdowns, prisons, and busy markets like Mbare Musika, being prioritised.
Finance and Economic Development Minister Professor Mthuli Ncube and Health and Child Care Deputy Minister Dr John Mangwiro led a delegation that received the inoculations at Robert Mugabe International Airport in Harare.
Addressing journalists at a Press briefing soon after receiving the vaccines, Prof Ncube said the doses would help to save lives and re-open the economy.
“In terms of our vaccination programme, this is yet another addition to the roadmap for the acquisition of vaccines.
We have received 500 000 today, by end of next week we will receive another two million, two weeks after that we want to bring another 1,5 million. We want to carry on so that by end of August we bring in another 3,5 million vaccines again from China,” he said.
“We are very organised, we are very focused and we are very diligent in terms of implementing our vaccination programme because saving lives is very important. But it’s not just about saving lives, it’s about economic recovery because when people are vaccinated its easier for companies to operate, it’s easier to do business and carrying on with business is what will revive the economy.”
Dr Mangwiro said people will soon be required to produce vaccination certificates for them to operate their businesses or go to work.
“Their (vaccines) arrival really excites us as you can see the Covid-19 disease is back via the third wave,” he said.
“As Government we are going to target border towns such as Beitbridge, Plumtree, Chirundu, Kariba, Nyamapanda and Forbes Border Post (Mutare) so that we make sure that if things continue getting worse at least our border areas are protected because you will find out that most of the infections are coming via our borders.
“We are also going to target areas that are very risky and that the disease can easily come through which are tobacco auction floors, GMB markets, Cotton Sales Floors and even the Musikas, Mbare Musika, Renkini, Machipisa, Sakubva and all such markets.”
Dr Mangwiro said Government is considering making vaccination mandatory for those working in crowded places to curb the spread of the virus.
“We are going to say if you really want to be selling at your market place or to be where you are, you need to be vaccinated. We definitely need to see that you have your (vaccination) certificate,” he said.
“We do not want any Zimbabweans to be a risk to another Zimbabwean, we need to protect each other. Every Zimbabwean has a right to life and we don’t want you to be part of the risk so we encourage everyone to be vaccinated.
“Also, we are not going to target these areas only, we are also going to make sure that prisoners are vaccinated. Those who work in the prison areas are also going to be vaccinated.
“Any area of concentration of people we will definitely make sure that people are vaccinated.”
In an interview with our Harare Bureau Chief Co-ordinator in the National Response to Covid-19 in the Office of the President and Cabinet, Dr Agnes Mahomva, said Government has addressed logistical glitches which were causing artificial shortages of vaccines.
“The Ministry of Health and Child Care is distributing vaccines to every corner of the country so there is no shortage there,” she said.
“But there are some places like Harare, for example, which are pushing their allocation at a much faster rate than other areas. What we are doing now is redistribution to say those who are pushing their vaccines at a slower pace we will take some from them and give to those who have exhausted their allocations.
“So yes there may be some logistical glitches there but like I said redistribution is one way of dealing with it. We are also prioritising those who are coming for the second doses as we are saying no one should fail to get their full immunisation.”
Meanwhile, Captains of Industry said there was need for a delicate balance between economy and fighting the pandemic.
In an interview, Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce (ZNCC) Matabeleland regional chairman Mr Lewis Herbst said a national lockdown would affect businesses.
“What the Government is doing right now with zones in lockdowns is actually the best thing because shutting down businesses completely because of hotspots I do not think it’s advisable at all. The economy is trying to recover and to shut down the economy again and have a national lockdown will have a detrimental effect,” said Mr Herbst.
He said was worrying was that some businesses were becoming complacency when they needed to take the Covid-19 pandemic seriously.
Mr Herbst however, commended the number of people going for vaccination saying there was a tremendous increase that showed that a certain degree of people were now starting to take it seriously.
He said businesses had to control their customers and follow the protocols and procedure.
“Businesses have to take it seriously and control their customers, at the same time following proper protocol and procedures of sanitising and social distance. There are a number of companies and businesses that have become irresponsible.
“Some banks have long queues outside their premises, while they are only concerned with what is happening inside,” he said.
Mr Herbst said they should consider what will be happening outside on the pavements and have security in place to maintain social distance.
He said it was everyone’s mandate to complement Government which was doing an excellent job to control and contain the spread of the virus
In a statement, Tourism Business Council of Zimbabwe (TBCZ) president Mr Wengayi Nhau said it must be clearly understood that a national lockdown had consequences that were “massively destructive” to the travel and tourism industry.
He said there was an unprecedented decimation of livelihoods and incomes for families and communities experienced in the wake of full lockdown measures.
“The travel and tourism sector is starting to recover from the effects of this and it is hoped to regain a momentum to rebuild the sector, most especially to re-employ the thousands of people who have lost jobs and bring a measure of relief to the tens of thousands of people in families and communities affected by these job losses and business closures,” Mr Nhau said.
However, CZR president Mr Denford Mutashu said he still feels there is a need for total lockdown.
“There is greater need to prevent rapid spread of the Covid-19 pandemic’s third wave as much as we can. We have alternatives as businesses to implement Government laid down protocols fully and eliminate complacency that has crippled in. It is the responsibility of business and the citizens to guard against complacency and avoid a national lockdown,” said Mr Mutashu.