Lockdown puts the 10-year Zimbabwe census on hold — for now

29 March 2020 - 00:00 By NJABULO NCUBE, KENNETH MATIMAIRE and SHARON MAZINGAIZO
A health worker screens visitors and sanitises their hands to prevent the spread of the coronavirus that causes the disease Covid-19, outside a hospital in Harare this week as measures promulgated to contain the virus took effect.
A health worker screens visitors and sanitises their hands to prevent the spread of the coronavirus that causes the disease Covid-19, outside a hospital in Harare this week as measures promulgated to contain the virus took effect.
Image: Philimon Bulawayo/Reuters

A partial lockdown in an attempt to avoid the worst of the Covid-19 virus has stalled the preliminary stages of Zimbabwe's preparations for the 2022 census.

However, it is business as usual elsewhere in the country, even in public areas where many people congregate.A census must be held every 10 years, according to law. A preliminary count began in December and was expected to be finished in May.

Aluwsio Mukavhi of the Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency said field mappers were withdrawn because of the virus.

"Census preparation, like the field-mapping exercise, makes the backbone of a successful population census," said Mukavhi.

"Critical to this effect is the change of data collection methodology if the situation does not improve for the better. It means, as an agency, we need to relook at the 2022 population and housing census mapping strategy methodology. This means that self-enumeration methodologies need to be put in place despite huge costs."

This is the time to act. We need to prevent a disaster. We are engaging with our [municipal] police
Dr Anthony Mutara - Mutare’s  health director

Census enumeration area maps can be drawn using satellite imagery to update existing maps from the 2012 census, but she said satellite images were expensive. Zimbabwe's last census was in 2012, in which the country recorded a population of 13.06-million - 48% male and 52% female. It revealed that almost all the people were of African ethnic origin with a negligible percentage being of European, Asian or mixed origins.

Meanwhile, local authorities are pushing for the lockdown of highly populated informal trading zones. Thousands of vendors, consumers and commuters continue to interact in congested trading zones in breach of a government directive that bans the assembly of more than 50 people.

"We advise that for those operating in designated areas such as markets and home industries, council is consulting with central government for the closure of the same,"said a statement by the Harare city council, seen by the Sunday Times.

Mutare health director Dr Anthony Mutara said the town would use council police to chase people away. "This is the time to act. We need to prevent a disaster. We are engaging with our [municipal] police," he said after three people underwent Covid-19 testing in Mutare.

The Masvingo council has ordered the use of sanitisers and social distancing at marketplaces and at the bus terminus. But there is no management of the measures and the areas are not formally demarcated. Gweru town clerk Charles Chikozho said there was "no official position at the moment".

Health experts said it was difficult to trace people who had come into contact with the virus.

"Every person interacts with an average of 10 people every day," said Manicaland provincial medical director Dr Munyaradzi Mukuzunga.

"For example, we can have contact A up to D. The first and last are easy to track because contact A is the patient and contact D are people the patient lives with, often family members.

"But it's difficult to trace the contacts in between, and note that they will also be interacting with others. This is how the figures double or multiply after a confirmed case."

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