Editor's Comment

Deal with COVID-19 culprits

IT IS becoming clear that some people have taken the health guidelines designed to reduce the transmission of the coronavirus (COVID-19) for granted.
This can be seen in the failure by people to observe basic guidelines meant for their own good. They don’t mask up, they don’t wash their hands and they ignore the need to exercise social distance.
These are seemingly straightforward prevention measures and yet most Zambians choose to risk their lives.
This is evident all over both in urban and rural areas as thousands of people go about their activities in total disregard of the regulations. One cannot say they are not aware of these regulations.
Government, with massive support from other stakeholders, has done quite a lot and a commendable job to sensitise the public.
Evidently, persuasion is falling on deaf ears. It is, therefore, time that other strategies are effected to ensure compliance of the regulations.
There is no other option but to enforce Statutory Instrument (SI) 22 of 2020 on public health measures to compel those that still think they know better.
Enforcement means people who will be found guilty of not masking up, sanitising or observing social distancing, among public health guidelines, will be liable to fines of about K750 (two thousand five hundred penalty units) or face jail sentence of up to six months.
Further, people who will be found operating bars and nightclubs amid the ban will be subjected to the same penalties.
This is an area that calls for redoubled efforts as bars continue to operate in many parts of the country with owners and patrons showing a level of impunity that is perturbing.
So often, we see raids on bars that end with confiscation of the drinks and closure of the premises but this ugly habit re-emerges almost immediately at another joint. The whip must crack harder and with much more force.
This is no longer a matter to treat with kids’ gloves. This is a matter of life and death.
It is unbelievable that COVID-19 could be spreading freely given the publicity COVID-19 has gained, which led to the closure of schools, colleges and universities, including shutting down of work places and places of worship.
Compliance has been noticed mainly in Government offices or those going to shopping malls or churches.
It is the opposite in markets, bus stations and in the high-density suburbs, where most people live. There is absolutely a care-free attitude, slowing down the fight against the disease.
Police, as law enforcement officers, should start arresting those not wearing masks and take them to courts where offenders will be dealt. Examples must be set for some of these culprits.
Enforcement is a good starting point. Every citizen has a role to play in preventing the spread of the virus, especially now that community transmission is reigning supreme.
Negative mindsets have caused some citizens to ignore the guidance from the national leadership and from the health authorities, such as the need to mask up, sanitise regularly and observe social distancing.
Measures such as fining those who defy measures put in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19 will make a difference, but what is needed is to influence positive attitudes among citizens.
Sensitisation must continue alongside the enforcement of law against those that defy the regulations.
No-one should plead ignorance of these health regulations. As it were, ignorance should be no defence when the culprits face the law.

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