The Novel Coronavirus Disease of 2019 (COVID 19) was first reported in the province of Wuhan, China in September 2019. It is an airborne strain of the family of Coronavirus not previously identified in humans. No effective vaccine exists. Vaccines generally take years in clinical trials before they are released onto the market and currently researchers worldwide are racing to have a safe and effective vaccine available as early as 2021. Russia has claimed success before approved clinical trials with Sputnik V. No registered treatment currently exists, and all cases are treated symptomatically. The virus has a global mortality rate of 3%, however Zimbabwe has experienced a slightly higher rate of 3.1%. The best course of action as recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO, 2020) is prevention through social distancing, and good hygiene standards such as wearing of masks to prevent inhalation of infected air droplets, hand washing and sanitization of surfaces.
To prevent the spread of COVID 19, many countries imposed national lockdowns with significant restrictions to movement and productivity, sports, entertainment as well as education. According to the Ministry of Health and Childcare (MoH) as at 31 August 2020 the country had recorded a total of 6497 confirmed cases, 5221 recoveries and 202 deaths (MOH,2020).The first lockdown was imposed with a Level 4 status. Since then the lockdown has been reduced to Level 2 allowing business to resume. This level of lockdown was initially extended indefinitely with guidelines for commercial operations. However, after a sharp rise in COVID 19 cases in mid-July new restrictions were introduced which included a 6pm to 6am curfew SIVIO Institute | 2 and penalties for non-compliance. The ‘lockdown’ in Zimbabwe has morphed over the weeks. At the time of writing, the curfew is now from 8pm to 6am, examination classes have returned to schools but all other children are either learning from home or not at school at all and Zimbabweans are trying to adapt to the “new normal”.
The presence of the COVID-19 virus has created many challenges as well as many opportunities for businesses in Zimbabwe. This report outlines the findings from a survey we (SIVIO Institute (SI)) conducted to understand the impact of the COVID 19 Lockdown on Micro, Small to Medium Scale Enterprises (MSME’s) in Zimbabwe. To date the imposed lockdown remains indefinite. Formal businesses and more recently informal businesses have been given permission to reopen subject to their adhering to strict hygiene protocols and their formal registration. Informal businesses are being encouraged to get hawkers and vending licenses, pay taxes, and ensure cleaning of work areas as preconditions for reopening. Ninety percent (90%) of businesses in Zimbabwe are in the informal sector and it is anticipated the closure of these businesses for several months since the end of March had a significant impact on the productivity of small enterprises. This closure most likely increased the vulnerability of households in Zimbabwe.