Zimbabwe’s largest nurses union yesterday called on members to boycott work citing low pay which it said could no longer meet basic needs at a time of galloping inflation.
The strike comes as the country is experiencing an upsurge in coronavirus cases with 567 infections, including six deaths, recorded so far compared to 132 cases a month ago.
“The reality which any reasonable person will accept is that we are incapacitated from attending work even if we wanted to,” the Zimbabwe Nurses’ Association (ZINA), which represents around 15,000 state nurses, said in a statement.
“The $Z3,000 (US$53) average salary we earn is not sufficient to cover basic needs without even adding the costs required to attend work,” it said.
Zimbabwe is facing its worst economic crisis in over a decade.
Basic goods are scarce and the value of the Zimbabwean dollar continues to tumble, pushing official annual inflation to 785.6% in May.
The union said a third of the average nurse’s salary could only buy a two-litre bottle of cooking oil, a 2kg packet of sugar, two litres of fruit juice, a 2kg packet of rice and two loaves of bread.
“A nurse still has to pay rent, school fees, medical fees and other essential items. For those who own cars, they cannot even fuel up to full tank because it costs more than their salary to do so,” it said.
On June 8, the union urged its members to stop going to work to press for higher pay but some nurses did not heed the call.
The association called on those who were not coming to work to continue absenting themselves, and for those who were “subsidising our employer by going to work” to join their striking colleagues.
The government has not responded to the call.
In the second city of Bulawayo, meanwhile, at least 12 people have died of diarrhoeal diseases while hundreds were treated at local clinics and hospitals.
The nurses strike is the latest in a string job walkouts. In March, nurses and doctors staged a walkout month in protest over a lack of protective clothing to care for coronavirus patients.
The public healthcare system — once among the best in Africa — faces shortages of basic drugs and lacks essential equipment and at times, even running water.
Since taking charge of Zimbabwe following a coup in 2017, President Emmerson Mnangagwa has vowed to improve the beleaguered economy and seek foreign investment to improve public services.
Kinshasa business district reopens
Authorities in DR Congo’s capital Kinshasa yesterday opened up the posh business district of Gombe which had been sealed off in April to contain the spread of the coronavirus.
Access to Gombe, which houses the country’s main institutions, banks and foreign embassies as well as upscale homes, was barricaded to everyone except local residents and key workers on April 6.
Kinshasa Governor Gentiny Ngobila had then justified the move saying the district was considered to be “the epicentre” of coronavirus spread in the city.
There have been 6,827 registered cases of Covid-19 in the Democratic Republic of Congo, of which more than 6,000 occurred in Kinshasa. The death toll nationwide stands at 158.
Gombe, home to 100,000 to 200,000 of Kinshasa’s 10mn people, has been dubbed “the Republic of Gombe” for its perceived status as an island of prosperity in a city rife with poverty and dysfunction.
An AFP journalist said barricades that had been erected to keep non-residents and key workers had been lifted yesterday.
Kinshasa governor Ngobila on Sunday however urged the city’s residents to limit their movements and wear masks all the time in public.
Shops, cafes, bars, restaurants and government offices have reopened in Gombe but the central market there remains closed. Shopkeepers yesterday staged a protest outside the town hall, calling for its reopening.
DR Congo’s borders remained sealed while Kinshasa has been isolated from the rest of the country. Schools, universities and places of worship are also closed.
Nigeria to ease travel restrictions
Nigeria will let people travel between its states outside curfew hours from tomorrow, a senior official said yesterday as authorities moved yesterday to relax some coronavirus pandemic restrictions.
Students due to graduate this year will also be able to go back to school to prepare for exams, though other children are still barred from attending, said Boss Mustapha, chair of the presidential taskforce on the infection.
The taskforce is trying to strike a “delicate balance” between protecting people’s livelihoods and their health, he added.
Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country with around 200mn people, has reported 24,000 cases of the virus and 565 deaths as of Sunday.
Authorities have imposed a 10pm-4am curfew and ordered people to wear masks in public places to curb the spread of the virus.
Public gatherings are limited to 20 people.
“We have observed with growing concern the non-compliances with these measures designed to prevent transmission,” Mustapha told reporters in the capital, Abuja.
“We run the risk of erasing the gains made in the last three months,” he said.
Seychelles says 70 sailors test positive
Seventy sailors from west Africa have tested positive for the novel coronavirus after arriving in the Seychelles to join a fleet of Spanish tuna fishing boats, health authorities said.
The sailors from Ivory Coast, Benin, Burkina Faso, Senegal and Ghana are part of a group of 200 who arrived last week on the archipelago to replace crew who had spent six months at sea fishing for tuna.
The Seychelles, which had recorded its last cases of the virus in April and had come out of confinement after all 11 patients were healed, had taken measures to ensure the sailors were free of the virus.
“Before coming to the Seychelles, they were tested in Senegal and in Ivory Coast and their results were negative, which allowed them to obtain the Covid-19 certificate which is a condition for entry into the Seychelles,” public health commissioner Jude Gedeons said.
He said there were “a total of 70 positive” cases.
“The sailors are currently in isolation on their vessel, because they have no symptoms of the illness.”
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