Big relief as Zim heeds lockdown…authorities also commend citizens for their discipline

©️ HOPES are high that the coronavirus pandemic will not hit the country too badly after Zimbabweans heeded the government’s call to stay at home yesterday, the first day of a 21-day national lockdown, the Daily News reports.
This comes as the government also announced yesterday that it would channel revenue from the unpopular two percent transaction tax towards coronavirus — in addition to paying $200 million monthly to one million vulnerable citizens under a cash transfer programme.
Police spokesperson Paul Nyathi told the Daily News last night that security forces were very happy with the discipline exhibited by most Zimbabweans yesterday, which saw many people heeding the lockdown call by authorities.
“Generally, there has been compliance. Almost all parts of the country complied with the directive, save for just a few areas where people did not observe the call.
“There were also some people who did not observe social distancing, with some planning to hold house parties. We discourage that.
“As of now, no arrests have been made … We are, however, worried about some youngsters who are driving around in cars, against the directive to stay at home,” Nyathi told the Daily News.
“We urge parents to ensure that their children are discouraged from driving around, and that they stay at home,” he added.
Nyathi also said police would continue to monitor the situation on the ground in the coming days and weeks, before deciding to reduce or increase their deployments.
The usually busy Harare and Bulawayo central business districts (CBDs) resembled ghost cities, as people largely stayed at home.
Most of the businesses that had been listed as providing essential services, including food stores and supermarkets, also either closed early or did not bother to open at all.
In downtown Harare, where it is usually a hive of activity, it was eerily quiet — with the wooden stalls that normally house vegetable vendors and flea market operators completely deserted.
Similarly, the Mbare Musika vegetable market and the popular Mupedzanhamo flea market in the capital were also deserted.
There was also no sign of business at most hotels in both Harare and Bulawayo, while banks were also shut following the directive by the government.
Service stations that have been dealing with long, snaking queues only had a few cars at their forecourts.
High density areas were also unusually quiet yesterday, as most residents there stayed indoors.
Visits by Daily News crews to Harare’s high density suburbs such as Mbare, Highfield, Glen Norah, Glen View, Budiriro, Warren Park and Dzivaresekwa confirmed that people were indeed complying with the lockdown.
Some parts of the sprawling Kuwadzana suburb had pockets of people on the roads, but the majority had retreated to their homes after their morning visits to shops.
In Epworth, a few vendors had set up their stalls, while the majority stayed away. In the capital city’s northern suburbs, people stayed in their homes.
The usually busy Sam Levy Village in Borrowdale had few supermarkets open, with its vast car parks almost completely empty.
It was the same story in Mt Pleasant, Helensvale, and Chisipite.
Police mounted several roadblocks and turned back some motorists who failed to prove that they were offering essential service.
In Chitungwiza, residents of the vast dormitory town also heeded the call to stay home.
At the generally busy Makoni Shopping Centre, commuter omnibuses and their crew were conspicuous by their absence, as only Zupco and Public Service Commission buses ferried the few essential workers who needed to travel to Harare.
The situation was almost the same at the usually bustling shopping centres dotted around the populous dormitory town.
Early in the morning, a few people who dared to get into the city centre were turned away by police, who conducted their duties largely in a civil manner.
A Daily News crew also witnessed hordes of passengers aboard buses being ordered off them, and being instructed to go back home.
Terrence Mazani, 24, who services vehicle tyres at the usually busy Chikwanha Shopping Centre, was one of the few people who were at work yesterday.
“My brother, I cannot stay at home because if I do that I will starve … I am here to service those who need pressure and to have their tyres mended,” he said between long puffs of his cigarette.
Just a few metres from him, a group of young men were chatting animatedly — and seemingly oblivious of the World Health Organisation guidelines on social distancing.
Health ministry officials with public hailers also traversed the dormitory town, distributing leaflets with messages about coronavirus.
At Chigovanyika Shopping Centre in St Mary’s, money changers could be seen milling around, but there were few people requiring their service.
In Mutare, the CBD and major markets were deserted, but social interactions continued unhindered in the Eastern border city’s high density suburbs.
While non-essential service providers were not operating, grocery shops and pharmacies were open, but there were very few people in the city centre as many stayed in their homes.
Sakubva’s vegetable market had only about 10 percent of its usually army of vendors.
Charles Mhlanga, a Sakubva resident, said a few locals were going about their social engagements like any other day.
“Some people are going about their business as if nothing is amiss. These families are visiting each other and this kind of ignorance could prove fatal in the coming weeks,” he warned.
A visit to Bulawayo high density suburbs also revealed de-congested shopping centres and streets, as people generally stayed in their homes.
In Emakhandeni, a few people were up and about, but the human traffic was recognisably low compared to normal days.
However, in Makokoba and Mzilikazi, it was business as usual in some places, with people visiting shops that were open.
Some shebeens in the two suburbs were also a hive of activity as beer lovers turned to the traditional watering holes.
In Pumula suburb, most of the shops and bars were largely closed.
At Entumbane complex, many people came out in their numbers to gather by the shops after reports surfaced that mealie-meal was likely to be delivered.
In Emganwini, people could be seen gathered at boreholes fetching water.


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