BY VANESSA GONYE
HEALTH experts and the business community have welcomed government’s easing of COVID-19 restrictions in the country, but warned that there was still need for caution to prevent a possible fifth wave due to complacency.
Last Friday, the government further relaxed the COVID-19 lockdown restrictions and announced that schools will reopen on February 7 as infection rates and deaths from the virus slowed.
Businesses were also given the greenlight to revert to normal opening hours, while bars, nightclubs and restaurants will open until 10pm.
Health expert, Josephat Chiripanyanga told NewsDay that since the infection rates seem to have stabilised and flattened the curve, removing the restrictions was welcome to pave way for the opening of schools as the gains made in the country’s education sector were being threatened by the pandemic.
“The Omicron variant has not been that fatal and the number of COVID-19 cases has subsided in the past couple of weeks. As medical practitioners, we also want our children to go back to school. On the other hand, we also urge the public to continuously uphold the COVID-19 protective measures because inasmuch as Omicron hasn’t been fatal, it’s still there and it’s still going to be spreading and there are chances of a fifth wave of COVID-19,” Chiripanyanga said.
Confederation of Zimbabwe Retailers president Denford Mutashu said: “Increased operating hours and reduced curfew hours will spur business activity in the highly in-formalised economy. We urge businesses not to lower their guard and continue to promote the vaccination drive.”
While announcing the opening date of schools last Friday, acting Health minister Amon Murwira said the decision to open schools was reached after fatalities from the global virus were on a downward trend for the past two weeks.
Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (ARTUZ) president Obert Masaraure said: “We encourage the government to focus on the implementation of standard operating procedures (SOPs) as prescribed by the World Health Organisation to safeguard the health of learners and teachers. The situation where we see schools becoming hotspots in less than a few weeks of opening is unacceptable and the union will not tire to call the government to order through our own internal mechanisms of monitoring schools’ adherence to SOPs.”