LIVES VS LIVELIHOOD

Lockdown or not? This is a question asked by many amidst the Coronavirus pandemic. While others think lockdown is the best option for countries, some do not agree. Total lockdown in Africa is a risk for many countries as Sub Saharan Africa is a hub for poverty.

According to the World Bank, Sub-Saharan Africa is the most poverty-stricken region in the world. Most Africans are living below the poverty datum line and are unable to spend over USD 1.90 per day.

Two months ago, to live above the datum line, Zambians would need to spend about K28.54 per day but under current circumstances, they need to spend about K35.54 against the USD 1.90. This shows a 25% increase in the amount that is supposed to be used in order for a household to be sustainable.

A lockdown would strain people’s livelihoods because some if not most are dependent on foreign commodities to survive. On the other hand, lives need to be prioritised as well.

Most infections as at now are local infections, which calls for a greater need for an internal lockdown of the country to stop the countrywide infection of people especially in towns and cities along the line of rail such Kafue, Lusaka, Kabwe, Kitwe, Luanshya and other feeder towns. All of these places are along the most used rail and roads in the country as well as most populated areas, which is no surprise.

Yes, the government does not want to affect people’s livelihoods but at the same time, they need to make sure that they take care of people’s lives.

This situation obtains even though Zambia is not in total lockdown for fear of making the country’s situation worse off. As of May 07, 2020, statistics show that the country has recorded about 167 cases but compared to its neighbouring country Zimbabwe which has one of the worst economies in the world has a total lockdown with only 34 cases meaning the spread of the virus is somewhat controlled.

Does this mean if Zambia locked down then we would have fewer cases? Well, of course because the risk of spreading the virus would be reduced. The questions we should be asking are; If Zambia closed its borders when the pandemic reached Africa, what would be today’s situation? If it locked down only Lusaka, would we have seen a spread of infections around Zambia?

I would assume it has crossed several people’s minds. In my opinion, if we had a lockdown immediately this pandemic got here, we would not have as many cases as we have today.

Yes, hunger would hit the country, but we also need to consider the safety of people because the fact is numbers are rising. What is Zambia’s testing capacity so far? For instance, if 300 tests are done in Lusaka with about 1 million people that is only three tests done per 10,000 people.

The bigger question though is 167 cases now, how many more to come? Who will have the virus next? Is it you or I? Should we lockdown or not?

This situation occurs as the country battles with high debt levels particularly external debt which stands at around $11 billion with many speculating that Zambia will default on its debt repayment.

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