Ivan Zhakata Herald Correspondent
The lockdown amendment order moving Zimbabwe from Level Two national lockdown back to a Level 4 for 30 days, with a few additions suspending permission for church services and other gatherings, was gazetted on Saturday.
The main effect of the amendment gazetted by Minister of Health and Child Care Vice President Constantino Chiwenga as Statutory Instrument 10 of 2021, Public Health (Covid-19 Prevention, Containment and Treatment) (National Lockdown) (No. 2) (Amendment) Order, 2021 (No. 9), prohibits most public gatherings of more than two people and closes most of the commercial and informal sectors except for supermarkets and pharmacies.
The productive sectors of agriculture, mining and manufacturing can remain open.
Supermarkets and other outlets supplying essential goods and services to customers that are allowed to remain open must limit their opening hours to between 8am and 3pm from tomorrow.
The curfew has been brought back to between 6pm and 6am.
From Saturday, several classes of public gatherings that were allowed more than two people have had this permission suspended for the 30 days, tightening the previously defined Level 4 lockdown.
This means there cannot be gatherings for public worship, for public hearings such as those conducted by Parliamentary committees, and for low-risk sports events.
Funerals are still permitted, but with no more than 30 people.
People can still queue at bus stops, supermarkets and pharmacies, but must obey social distancing rules.
Masks have to continue to be worn in public, but that regulation has been in effect for several months now regardless of relaxations.
Zimbabwe started with a Level Four lockdown, keeping everyone not in an essential service at home except when they needed to buy food or medicine, collect water or seek medical attention, or do this for someone else such as an elderly or infirm relative.
This was soon modified to allow farming and allow farmers to deliver crops.
The country was then moved to Level 4, reopening the productive sectors of mining and manufacturing, and allowing some new social gatherings, such as church services, but with severely limited numbers.
We then moved to a phased introduction of Level Two, which effectively opened most of the commercial sector and much of the informal sector, under conditions.
Amendments then made careful additions to the permitted activities.
We now move back to Level 4, with what amounts to Level 5 conditions for many gatherings.
There was confusion yesterday over the two different starting dates, the gatherings ban from Saturday and the closures of non-essential shops and informal sector enterprises from tomorrow with a couple of days of grace given to allow this to be done in an orderly way. And it was also apparent that many people had missed the public announcement and subsequent news stories.
Members of the apostolic sect which are part of the churches and gatherings that were banned could be seen gathered at their shrines across the city but they were also breaking previously existing regulations demanding social distancing at then permitted gatherings and the people were not wearing masks.
In Harare’s Central Business District (CBD),supermarkets were packed with people shopping while this was still easy.
In an interview, Chido Musakanda a Glenview resident said Covid-19 was real and she was making sure that she had enough food stocks for her family for the next 30 days. “I have relatives who have died of Covid-19 so I know it is real and deadly.’’she said.
Another consumer, Patricia Munda said as a pharmacist at a local pharmacy she will be going to work but wanted to make sure that her family is safe. “I want my family to be safe to I am increasing the sanitisers and facemasks so that they are safe. I want them to stay indoors and make sure that all Covid-19 regulations are followed,” she said.
At Mbare Musika it was business as usual as people could be seen selling their second hand clothing outside Mupedzanhamo flea market while others were flooded along Cripps Road and Remembrance Drive selling their wares. There was no social distancing and most of people were wearing face masks improperly. Much of this activity was already banned but had been tolerated.
One of the traders at Mupedzahamo who only identified himself as Ras Simba said he does not care about the lockdown. “If I stay at home my family will die of hunger because I do not go to work” he said.
At Mbare Bus terminus, travellers were jostling for buses to their rural areas and other cities. Terrence Chigoma of Mhondoro Ngezi said he had visited his brother who stays in Harare but after the announcement of the lockdown regulations he decided to go back home. “I had come to spend Christmas and New Year at my brother’s place but now I have to go home. I want to spend the tighter lockdown with my parents because I am the one who looks after them,” he said.
Dr Chiwenga over the weekend said the surge in the number of new infections had prompted the Government to act. Zimbabwe has recorded 1 342 cases of the coronavirus and 19 deaths over the festive season, with the number of new infections and deaths nearly doubling over the last two months.
Dr Chiwenga said Government had intensified surveillance, testing and patient care throughout the country.