As Zimbabwe hit 2 million people fully vaccinated against Covid-19, all civil servants were placed under legal orders to be fully vaccinated with both jabs of an approved Covid-19 vaccine by October 15 and if they refuse they will face disciplinary proceedings for failing to obey a lawful instruction.
The deadline, lawful order and warning about resulting disciplinary action were included in Statutory Instrument 234 gazetted yesterday that also uses the same October 15 deadline for legally implementing the previously announced Cabinet decision to bar unvaccinated civil servants from work stations and not to pay them while they are barred.
But many civil servants have already been vaccinated with both doses since late on Thursday, 2 001 987 people had received both jabs with more than 905 000 having had their first dose and getting their second by mid-October.
The total means that 13,3 percent of the total population of Zimbabwe, estimated at just over 15 million, is fully vaccinated and by October 15, with all those on just one dose now getting their second, at least 20 percent of the population, more than 3 million people, will be fully vaccinated.
Civil servants had early priority for vaccination.
Even if a civil servant has a valid excuse not to have been vaccinated by 15 October, and that reason is accepted by their Ministry head and the Public Service Commission (PSC), the deadline is only extended to 31 December at the latest, rather than the instruction being dropped.
SI234 is the 35th amendment to national lockdown regulations and was gazetted by Vice President and Minister of Health and Child Care Constantino Chiwenga using his powers under public health laws to combat infections of Covid-19.
The relevant section of the amendment as it concerns civil servants reads: “Every member of the Public Service shall be fully vaccinated, and any member not so vaccinated shall be barred from the workplace after 15 October, 2021, and not be paid while he or she is so barred; (any member) who refuses to be fully vaccinated shall be subject to disciplinary proceedings on the basis that he or she failed to obey a lawful instruction.”
The section then gives a proviso: “Provided that if the head of Ministry or head of department is satisfied that any member of the Public Service who is employed in that Ministry or department has a reasonable excuse for not being fully vaccinated by the 15th October, 2021 (which excuse shall be recorded in writing and promptly notified by the head concerned to the Commission), the head concerned may in relation to that member extend the vaccine mandate to no later than 31 December, 2021.”
October 15 is exactly four weeks from yesterday, the date SI234 was gazetted. Four weeks is the generally accepted gap between first and second jabs.
The amendment to the national lockdown regulations also clarifies that while low-risk, medium-risk and high-risk sporting activities can take place between 8am and 8pm, only vaccinated sportspersons can participate in these events.
The liberalisation that churches can open worship services for more than 100 people so long as only half the capacity of the venue is also gazetted, along with the details of how full vaccination must be checked if a vaccination mandate is imposed on the service because it is in or near a Covid-19 hotspot. In this section the option of a full negative Covid-19 test plus no symptoms can be considered.
The amendment also defines using fake vaccination certificates as the criminal offence of forgery. “For the avoidance of doubt, any person who exhibits false proof of full vaccination or is concerned in any way with the production, distribution, sale or offer for sale of any such certificate or who alters any such certificate with intent to deceive shall be guilty of forgery as provided in the Criminal Law Code.”
Proof of vaccination is defined as a material or electronic certificate giving the name, date of birth, either the National ID number or passport number or drivers licence number, the place or places of vaccination, the date of the second vaccine dose and the type of approve vaccine used.