Fungi Kwaramba Political Editor
A night curfew from 6pm to 6am for all but essential services and a retreat to 8am to 3pm working hours for exempted businesses have been imposed from today, along with criminalisation of deliberate or reckless transmission of Covid-19.
Announcing the new measures yesterday, President Mnangagwa stressed enforcement of other present lockdown rules.
Non-working people should stay at home except for essential movement to buy food, find water or for medical reasons; masks had to be worn outside of homes; everyone screened entering public places and buildings; social distancing observed; public transport passengers screened and sanitised on boarding with buses disinfected between round trips; and intercity movement remains banned.
Businesses already formally exempted and so allowed to operate, including food markets, were only affected by the shortening of the working hours by 90 minutes in the afternoons.
The curfew and other changes were the result of the rapid increase in the number of total infections, especially those within Zimbabwean communities, seen recently with local cases now greater than those among returning residents.
Zimbabwe was particularly vulnerable being a neighbour of South Africa, the fifth most seriously affected country in the world.
In its daily report last night the Ministry of Health and Child Care announced another 107 confirmed infections, with 84 of the new patients infected within Zimbabwe and the other 23 in South Africa and Botswana. This brings the cumulative total to 1 820, with 956 being local infections, compared to 864 among quarantined returnees. The number of deaths remains at 26 but the number of confirmed recovered patients has risen to 488.
In his address, at State House, the President noted that the global Covid-19 infections which now stand at 8.1 million with 600 000 deaths are no longer foreign to Zimbabwe but are now being felt in the country as infections spike.
Africa has not been spared by the pandemic with 721 000 cases, up from 443 412 recorded cases from the previous week. So far more than 15 100 deaths have been reported on the continent with 380 253 recoveries.
Zimbabwe had recorded 600 new cases in just one week, with deaths rising from 18 to 26.
“These urgent and necessary measures will entail curtailing the freedoms we have always enjoyed, and have grown accustomed to. From now on, these freedoms stand suspended and deferred, in the interest of all of us; indeed, in the interest of our children and our nation which must survive, thrive and prosper beyond this pandemic. No responsible
Government places its citizens in harm’s way, hence my Government will do all it can to preserve and protect the right to life,” he said.
“Covid-19 is thus no longer a problem out there, far and beyond our borders: rather, it is now here amongst us and in our communities,” he said.
“This sobering reality means that we can no longer be complacent, and that requires urgent and decisive measures.”
The President listed the requirements as follows.
All non-working sections of our population will be required to stay at home; except for purposes of securing food, water and health services.
Where travel and social contact becomes essential and inevitable, every Zimbabwean should and must uphold the four requirements set out by the World Health Organisation (WHO) which are: Wearing masks or equivalent protective materials; Observing strict standards of hygiene, including the washing of hands or use of sanitisers; Mandatory screening in all public places and buildings; Social distancing in all public places and at all times;
With effect from today, all business premises must operate from 8am to 3pm, with the exception of providers of essential services.
From today, all security services must enforce a dusk-to-dawn curfew set to come into force daily between 6pm and 6am with only essential services exempt from this curfew.
All business operations and premises are required to observe and enforce WHO anti-Covid-19 standards which include observing social distance at workplaces, wearing of masks at all times, regular screenings and strict hygienic standards at workplaces;
Only registered small and medium enterprises which have been allocated workspaces will be allowed to operate, and must comply with the parameters and protocols set by the WHO.
Food markets will remain open and operational, and must observe set measures, rules and requirements meant to uphold public health. Supplies to markets should be facilitated to reach the markets, including by security forces.
Intercity and intertown public transport and inessential transport to all rural areas remain banned.
All approved buses and vehicles for public transport should ensure and enforce public health standards, including the screening of passengers before boarding, and the disinfecting of all public vehicles after each round trip;
Public gatherings for social, religious or political purposes remain banned. Funeral gatherings remain curtailed, in line with public health requirements.
Desertion from places of quarantine by returnees and infected persons, resulting in the exposure of innocent lives to the virus will be considered a criminal act and invite very robust response from law and public health-enforcement arms.
Anyone who knowingly exposes, aids, abets, or infects innocent persons, whether by breaching conditions of isolation or by encouraging actions which undermine public health measures which Government has announced or undertaken, will be liable, and severely punished accordingly.
“These measures are being taken for our collective safety. As Zimbabweans, we have to win the war against the Covid-19 pandemic. We must minimise loss of lives. I, as your President, will come back to you to announce the easing of these public health measures, once the situation has improved. Let all of us, for now, unreservedly comply with these measures,” he said.
The President’s announcement comes a few days after the WHO on Monday voiced its alarm over the rising number of positive cases in Africa.
WHO emergency chief Michael Ryan warned that the high number of positive cases in South Africa which now stand at more than 350 000, and which is the world fifth hardest hit nation, could be a precursor of more infections in the region.
The WHO chief warned that the dire situation in South Africa could be a marker of what the continent could face if urgent action is not taken to provide further support.
After the first reported case on March 20 this year, Zimbabwe had by early lockdown procedures been able to minimise the spread of Covid-19, with almost all recorded infections being found in formal quarantine centres among returning residents, with follow-up measures allowing these people to be isolated until they recovered.
However, a minority of quarantined returnees, around 7 percent, have fled quarantine and there has been border jumping and smuggling.
Lockdown measures highlights
All non-working sections of the population required to stay at home; except for purposes of securing food, water and health services
With effect from today, all businesses must operate from 8am until 3pm, with exception of providers of essential services
Security forces to enforce a dusk-to-dawn curfew between 6pm and 6am. Essential services are exempt from the curfew
All business operations and premises are required to observe and enforce WHO anti-Covid-19 standards
Only registered SMES which have been allocated work spaces will be allowed to operate
Food markets will remain open and operational, and must observe set measures
Inter-city/town public transport and inessential transport to all rural areas remain banned
Public gatherings for social and religious gatherings remain banned, and funerals remain curtailed
Breaching of measures to attract severe punishment