Businesses and traders have returned to their normal working hours following the extension of operating hours under the new Level Two lockdown measures announced by President Mnangagwa on Tuesday.
Businesses and informal traders had been forced to close at 3.30pm while Zimbabwe was fighting the third wave of Covid-19 infection but can now stay open to 7pm.
Most obviously close earlier although supermarkets, takeaways, food shops and others who cater for the late trade will stay open to the new deadline.
Bottle stores remain an exception. They received just another half hour to sell take-away liquor and must close at 4pm.
With curfew now running from 10pm to 5.30am, employees now have more time to travel home after close of business.
Most companies said the extended hours would go a long way to revive some businesses that had begun to wilt under the pressure of the enhanced lockdown required to fight high infection rates.
Small traders said they were part of those who were most affected and expressed their appreciation for the longer working hours.
Confederation of Zimbabwe Retailers (CZR) president Mr Denford Mutashu said the extension of operating hours was a welcome development for shop owners.
“The CZR applauds President Mnangagwa for relaxing Covid-19 restrictions by announcing a Level 2 lockdown in order to curb the global pandemic. Despite the latest relaxation, CZR urges business and the general public to strictly adhere to the measures,” he said.
He said it was imperative for Zimbabweans to be vaccinated to ensure that business continues to run normally and resuscitate the economy.
Mrs Memory Masiye, a vendor in Harare said she was happy that she would be able to work longer to sustain her family.
“During Level Four, I had to pack up my wares at 3pm to try and beat the curfew. But now I can continue selling to those who finish work at 5pm and be able to get more money and still be able to make it home on time. I need to sell as much as possible for me to be able to put food on the table for my family,” she said.
Formal and informal business traders in Mashonaland West province welcomed the relaxation of the lockdown saying it will boost their businesses which have been hampered by low movement of customers.
Chinhoyi was one of the first few towns to be put on Level Four lockdown following a surge of Covid-19 in Makonde, Hurungwe and Kariba districts.
Traders there said they were barely making a living from the difficult and competitive sale of their wares to a few customers that made it to the provincial capital and having to cope with industrial and commercial workers who left work when shops and stalls had to close.
Mr Ferai Dhumbukwa, who runs a motor spares outlet said business dropped to as low as 20 percent while newspaper vendors hailed the decision as they were selling only half of their daily allocations unlike before.
“We are expecting to sell more newspapers now that time has been extended. I will stop at 6pm to push my allocation,” Mr Tendai Makumbe said.
People from as far as Zumbara, Doma and Chitomborwizi areas under Makonde district who rely on Chinhoyi for services said they are now able to do their shopping steadily.
Staff at the Seven Heroes’ Government provincial offices was half level yesterday in line with the directive allowing staff levels to move from 25 percent to 50 percent while strict adherence to Covid-19 protocols was in place.
The business community in Bindura expressed their gratitude to President Mnangagwa for extending operating hours, saying the move balances between the risk of Covid-19 and survival of business.
Mr Richard Phiri, who leads the business community association, said Covid-19 was real but businesses also needed to operate and break even.
“We thank the President for extending operating hours to 7pm. The risk of Covid-19 is still there but the Government has balanced the situation since businesses need to trade,” he said.
Intercity and Zupco buses were still few by yesterday.
In Masvingo an air of relief gripped the country’s oldest town yesterday after business started operating normally with most operators saying the development marked the end of a painful period.
Big supermarkets in the city centre and suburban areas together with other businesses were geared for the return to normal hours saying they had adequate stocks for full scale trading.
Some of the operators who spoke to The Herald hailed the move by Government to intensify vaccination saying this enabled them to resume normal operations as the enhanced lockdown had taken its toll on them.