By Thandeka Moyo-Ndlovu and Bongani Ndlovu
Defiant bars and nightclubs run the risk of being Covid-19 hotspots as Bulawayo’s night life is back with bars and nightclubs operating illegally packed with patrons who drink until late into the night.
According to regulations, members of the public are allowed to buy beer and drink at home but defiant bars and nightclubs in the city are allowing patrons to drink in the bars until late at night thereby risking spreading Covid-19 pandemic.
The city has of late started recording an increase in new Covid-19 cases and now has the highest number of active cases in the country.
Bulawayo had almost half of the country’s active Covid-19 cases at 114 while the national figure stood at 248 as of Saturday.
Zimbabwe and Bulawayo in particular could experience a second wave of Covid-19 infections and bars are likely to be the epicentres.
Bars and leisure spots in the city continue to draw large crowds often flouting social distancing and mask-wearing guidelines.
The increased number of cars parked outside the beer outlets until late confirm that indeed bars and nightclubs have chosen to be defiant despite the fact that Covid-19 is still around.
Recently socialite Genius ‘Ginimbi’ Kadungure was in the city and his fans seemed to have thrown caution to the wind as they behaved as though the pandemic is over at drinking places he visited.
A visit to a number of bars and nightclubs last week confirmed that indeed Bulawayo’s night life is back with patrons drinking until late. No social distancing is observed, patrons are not sanitised and there is no requirement for them to wear face masks.
A drive around the city at night and during the day especially at weekends by Chronicle revealed some worrying trends.
Patrons are coming in their numbers to drink in bars in the Central Business District and places such as Bradfield Shopping Centre and many others.
The sharing of Shisha smoking which health experts have said can transmit coronavirus, has resumed at a number of bars.
In the western suburbs bars are also illegally operating allowing patrons to drink until late at night.
The ladies of the night are also back in the bars and nightspots but are constantly raided by the police.
Since last Thursday many of these bars operating illegally have been raided by joint police and army teams and it is hoped these raids will continue in order to stop the illegal operations.
Concerned residents said people have started drinking late into the night with some patrons leaving the usually crowded places after 10PM despite the 8PM curfew imposed by Government.
According to Mr Brian Bhebhe, many who patronise these bars operating illegally do no wear masks or practise social distancing.
“I love my beer but I do not like what we are seeing at night at these nightspots which were allowed to sell beer. There is recklessness and I think people are slowly digging their own graves by frequenting these places,” he said.
The executive director of the Women’s Coalition in Zimbabwe Mrs Sally Ncube said police should patrol to arrest those flouting Covid-19 regulations.
“Reports from our networks today continue to reveal sprouting of illegal bars and other drinking spots in both rural and urban communities. The beer outlets are selling beer and serving patrons well into the night and operating beyond the prescribed Covid-19 regulations. From our monitoring and observations today, it appears Saturday is party day, as merry makers continue to meet in groups at bottle stores, open-airs where they enjoy their beers, without any adherence to public health guidelines such as wearing of masks,” said Mrs Ncube.
“In areas such as Bulawayo and Plumtree, others are hosting house parties with more than 50 revellers in attendance. We urge the police to intensify lockdown enforcement in residential areas and also stop illegal operations of bars and night spots,” she said.
Mrs Ncube urged communities and citizens to be responsible in safeguarding their health by complying with public health guidelines.
Mpilo acting chief executive officer Professor Solwayo Ngwenya said the careless behaviour of crowding and not wearing of masks was also creeping into supermarkets.
He said those who love their beer should drink from the comfort of their homes.
“I will never be apologetic about my fight against Covid-19 because the reality is that even developed countries are failing to cope with the pandemic and the situation will be worse for developing countries like us,” said Prof Ngwenya.
He said crowded and enclosed spaces like bars and churches should be avoided because the virus is spread when a person talks, breathes, coughs or sneezes.
“Even if you are wearing a mask and you are in an enclosed space, there is still a possibility of getting infected,” said Prof Ngwenya.
He said members of the public should not imagine they are immune to Covid-19 based on the hot weather as the pandemic is killing hundreds daily in Brazil whose climate is similar to that of Zimbabwe.
“Ignorance, defiance and scepticism is going to kill many Zimbabweans and it’s a matter of time before we start suffering the consequences of our behaviours. Everyone is so laid back and not worried about Covid-19 and when the storm hits, we will realise that one’s wellbeing is more valuable than a night out with friends over a beer,” said Prof Ngwenya. The Chronicle.