Farirai Machivenyika–Senior Reporter
Sporting activities can now resume with strict adherence to Covid-19 regulations, with all staff and coaches at sports clubs required to be vaccinated, while a range of cultural and leisure activity can now resume for the fully vaccinated, including cinemas, theatres, art galleries, gymnasiums, health spas and fitness centres.
The relaxations were announced by Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister Monica Mutsvangwa after yesterday’s Cabinet meeting and follow the continuing fall in infection rates as the third wave of Covid-19 continues to retreat.
Cabinet also removed the quarantine requirement for travellers coming from countries with high rates of the Covid-19 Delta variant since 98 percent of Zimbabwe’s cases were of the same variant and so there was no extra risk.
The relaxations in a wide range of sporting and arts-related activity come from the continuing decline in infection.
By Monday the average number of daily infections had fallen to less than 10 percent of the rate at the peak of the third wave, and with the protocols for sports events and the need for everyone in near-normal cultural activity to be fully vaccinated it is unlikely the relaxations will result in another surge of infection.
The number of fully vaccinated people went over 1,6 million on Monday with almost another 1 million joining the group over the next four weeks as they have already had their first jab.
By the end of September, there will be well over 2,5 million fully vaccinated people who can now go to church and participate in a wide range of cultural activities.
Minister Mutsvangwa said Cabinet received an update on the country’s response to the pandemic from Defence and War Veterans Affairs Minister Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri, who is chairperson of the Ad-hoc Inter-Ministerial Taskforce on Covid-19.
From the outbreak of the pandemic in March last year up to yesterday, Zimbabwe has recorded 124 773 cases, 113 057 recoveries and 4 419 deaths. Zimbabwe presently has 7 297 active cases.
As a result of the briefings on the latest figures and following representations from the affected sectors of the economy, Cabinet made a series of low-risk relaxations to the present lockdown measures that will allow some hard-hit sectors to resume at least partial operations.
When the Delta variant was identified, Zimbabwe imposed compulsory quarantine on travellers coming from countries where the variant was common. But as the variant now accounts for 98 percent of Zimbabwean cases this is no longer needed.
While cinemas and theatres can reopen, all staff on duty must be vaccinated, all those attending must be fully vaccinated and social distancing must still be observed so only half the seating capacity can be used. Galleries can reopen, with vaccinated staff and fully vaccinated clients.
Resumption of sporting activities requires strict observance of Covid-19 prevention measures and protocols, with all officials and attendant staff vaccinated.
Where local activities involve participants who are below the age of 14, they shall, in all cases, be checked for Covid-19 symptoms, have regular temperature checks and follow social distancing protocols.
Athletes or children aged 14 to 18 years are highly recommended to get vaccinated, and the national sports associations can work with Sport and Recreation Commission to get this done.
Following the re-opening of schools this week, Minister Mutsvangwa said the Ministries of Health and Child Care, of Primary and Secondary Education, and of Higher and Tertiary Education, Innovation, Science and Technology Development were collaborating to ensure the safe and smooth re-opening of learning institutions with all following the standard operating procedures.
Furthermore, the nation is being informed that the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education is holding Integrated Service Fairs in all of the country’s 72 districts.
“The campaign is a Whole-of-Government initiative on mobilising communities to send learners back to school on the opening day.
“The fairs also intend to mobilise educational goods and services, thereby ensuring that the learners have adequate resources to make up for time or lost due to Covid-19 outbreak,” she said.