It’s been almost a week since the trial lockdown, so it is probably time to make some assessments on what was learnt – not as a government official but as an ordinary Honiara resident.
Lockdowns for the most part will involve government agencies that will do what they are trained to do. Police will set up barricades, patrol the emergency zone, make arrests where necessary and maintain order. Health teams will try to contain the further spread of the virus, so a lot of contact tracing and perhaps other household level interventions.
The public has the easiest part to play – stay at home!
The group that is of interest is the livelihood committee, they have a massive role to play. How have they responded?
During the trial lockdown a toll-free number was set up for those that genuinely need assistance with food. Would be interesting to hear some feedback on how many people called for food assistance, and whether the livelihood committee was able to cope.
Would also be good to hear some honest feedback from the committee, no point painting a rosy picture if the trial lockdown exposed serious gaps. Share information openly and truthfully with the public so we could all come up with solutions. For now, one can say based on the trial lockdown that the livelihood committee will need to do more.
For example, the livelihood committee cannot be engaged in the selling of fresh produce during a lockdown - it will be messy and uncoordinated. Besides, people may not have cash in hand to buy food during a lockdown, even in the best of times people do not have surplus money in their pocket – for the majority, what is earned that day is spent that day.
It will be expensive but for certain segments of the Honiara population the government must ready itself to distribute basic food items for free. There needs to be a system in place to monitor distribution, technology could play a part in this.
What should also be considered is the opening of some of the main retailers in town for those that can pay for their own food. Work with the banks and ensure EFTPOS systems are installed and working so no cash changes hands. We should have trialed such an approach.
Retailers that have had all of their staff vaccinated should be prioritized. Honiara should be zoned, and each zone given a time to go down and do shopping. Items should be limited for basic household items, just so that we do not run out of food in the event of a protracted lockdown. All safety protocols are to be observed, such as masks, sanitizers and social distancing whilst shopping.
So perhaps we should not spend any more money on lockdowns, some of the challenges are plain to see. The livelihood sector needs to be further supported, and perhaps call for wider involvement of all retailers in town – they will have a vested interest to keep their business running during a lockdown, hear what they have to say. And why not have representatives from informal settlements? They are best placed to talk about their own challenges, especially now that we have had two trial lockdowns.