Community members who are part of Virtual Platforms established by communities working with Heal Zimbabwe from Gutu and Zaka have singled out corruption by law enforcement agents as the major spreader of COVID 19.
There have been several reports made against police officers manning roadblocks who are receiving bribes from people who are not part of the “essential services” providers list, to get into the central business districts.
Some reports indicate that most bar owners are paying law enforcement agents money to open their bars at night, which is against the COVID-19 regulations.
Participants during the virtual meeting said the behaviour of the police will likely worsen the current situation which has seen Zimbabwe recording 23 239 confirmed cases, including 13 396 recoveries and 551 deaths.
“The spread of COVID 19 is being made worse by police officers who are being paid money by bar owners. We have seen bars secretly opening at night and are usually packed to capacity. Patrons in these bars do not even wear face masks or observe social distancing. This has led to a surge in COVID-19 cases”, said one participant from Gutu.
Participants also highlighted that the government is supposed to continue strictly screening and testing people who were coming into local communities from countries such as South Africa that had in recent months recorded a spike in COVID 19 cases.
“Mandatory screening and testing were no longer prioritised during the festive season and as such here in Gutu we recorded an increase in the number of people coming from South Africa,” another participant added.
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“Some of these people evaded quarantine centres through illegal entry into the country and paid bribes to police officers manning roadblocks. This has made it difficult for communities to manage and control the spread of COVID 19”, said another participant.
Other issues that came out during the dialogue include the reluctance by citizens to wear face masks and observe social distancing especially at business centres and other public places.
In Harare and surrounding cities, citizens have started to trickle back into the city centres despite the 30-day lockdown order.
However, the ZR Police yesterday said it is intensifying the fight against COVID-19 as more people have been arrested for disregarding the lockdown rules.
“Police has intensified the enforcement of the COVID-19 Lockdown Regulations. On 11/01/21, a total of 2 374 people were arrested throughout the country, bringing the cumulative total arrests to 322 214 since the start of the COVID-19 Regulations in March 2020,” said ZRP in a statement.
Meanwhile, the dialogue meeting resolved that there is a need for citizens to take ownership of the fight against COVID 19 instead of leaving the responsibility to law enforcement agents.
This involves encouraging community members to wear face masks, use of soap to wash hands and observing other COVID 19 preventative measures.