President Emmerson Mnangagwa says government experts are finalising the rollout of vaccines, but warned Zimbabweans to prepare for a further rise in cases.
On Saturday afternoon, Mnangagwa delivered a speech that was light on detail on government’s response, but weightier on symbolism. With press reports speculating on Mnangagwa’s health, and that of his two deputies, the President’s appearance appeared as much tailored to dispel fears of a power vacuum as it was meant to calm an anxious nation.
In his address, Mnangagwa said the COVID-19 crisis was “worrisome and threatens to become dire”, but said he sees signs of hope in rising recovery rates.
“The situation is very worrisome, and threatens to become dire. There is hope, however; our recovery rates are once more beginning to creep up. While we are facing increasing numbers of cases, requiring hospitalisation and close professional care, there is scope for increasing our capacities in order to cope with a likely upsurge.”
Mnangagwa did not give a timeline for the vaccine rollout, at a time impatience is growing over his government’s progress on vaccines.
Zimbabwe is part of the WHO’s COVAX vaccine facility and is eligible for vaccines under a separate African Union strategy, which is backed by the Afreximbank. Mnangagwa said his panel of experts on COVID-19 is close to completing a rollout plan, but gave no indication as to when this can be.
“Govt has engaged countries which have developed vaccines. Our experts, who have been assessing different vaccines, are close to finalising the course to recommend to our nation, a course which brings in relief, and which we’ll rollout so we don’t lose more lives,” Mnangagwa said.
Health care workers, he said, would be first in line to receive vaccines once it reaches Zimbabwe.
“Our frontline staff continues to give our very best, and we owe them greatly for their huge sacrifices,” he said. “Once we receive the vaccine, and it will be quite soon, they will be the first to be inoculated”.
He added: “Consultations are underway with the private sector to ensure we pool our efforts and resources for a definitive national response.”
By Friday, Zimbabwe had 30,523 cumulative cases of coronavirus, with 21,080 recoveries. These cases, Mnangagwa says, will rise before things can get any better.
“Indications point to more infections, in the coming hours, days, weeks and even months. To date, we have lost over 962 of our beloved ones, and soon, we will reach, and even pass, the grim mark of a thousand.”
A series of recent high-profile deaths has heightened public criticism of government’s COVID-19 response.
Mnangagwa said: “There are no spectators, adjudicators, no holier than thou, no super men or super women. We are all exposed. We are all potential victims. We are all affected, one way or the other.”
“The situation which confronts us, may make us feel depressed and helpless. Let me remind each and every one of us, that we have been through worse challenges; challenges we had to face on our own.”