SENIOR STAFF WRITER
THE government has banned the movement of people between 6pm and 6am with effect from today, as authorities bid to further combat the rising coronavirus deaths and infections in the country, the Daily News reports.
As a result, only those people who are regarded as performing essential services — which includes media workers — will be allowed to move and to operate during the 12-hour curfew period.
This comes as more and more people are succumbing to the lethal virus, which has infected nearly 2 000 Zimbabweans — amid rising numbers of people running away from quarantine centres.
It also comes as opposition and pro-democracy groups are preparing to stage anti-government mass protests at the end of the month, over alleged rampant public sector corruption and the country’s worsening economic rot.
Addressing the nation last night, President Emmerson Mnangagwa, pictured, said it was important to impose the new tougher restrictions to save lives, in the face of accelerating infections and deaths in the country.
“Our country, as of this morning (yesterday), had recorded 1 713 cases, up from 985 cases recorded by last week.
“This means that the number of positive cases increased by over 600 in just one week. During the same period, the number of deaths rose from 18 to 26.
“However, for the first time local transmissions now exceed imported cases — the former standing at 872, and the latter at 841,” Mnangagwa said.
“Another worrisome development is that more and more cases of local transmissions are being reported at places of work.
“Covid-19 is thus no longer a problem out there, far and beyond our borders — rather, it is now here amongst us and in our communities.
“Therefore, this sobering reality means that we can no longer be complacent, and that requires urgent and decisive measures.
“These urgent and necessary measures will entail curtailing the freedoms we have always enjoyed, and had grown accustomed to,” Mnangagwa said further.
“From now on, these freedoms stand suspended and deferred, in the interest of all of us; indeed in the interest of our children and our nation which must survive, thrive and prosper beyond this pandemic.
“Accordingly, government has decided on the following measures which take full effect from tomorrow (today), until further review and notice:
“All non-working sections of our population will be required to stay at home except for purposes of securing food, water and health services,” Mnangagwa added.
“With effect from tomorrow (today), all business premises must operate from 0800HRS until 1500HRS, with the exception of providers of essential services.
“As of tomorrow (today), all our security services must enforce a dusk-to-dawn curfew set to come into force daily between 1800HRS and 0600HRS.
“Only essential services are exempt from this curfew,” Mnangagwa also said as he unveiled the extraordinary measures which neighbouring South Africa has also imposed in part following a spike in Covid-19 deaths and infections in that country.
He also said all business operations and premises were required to observe and enforce World Health Organisation (WHO) anti-Covid-19 standards which included observing social distancing, the wearing of masks at all times, regular screenings and strict hygienic standards at workplaces.
In addition, he said, only registered small to medium enterprises (SMES) which had been allocated workspaces would be allowed to operate — within the parameters and protocols set by the (WHO).
“Our food markets will remain open and operational, and must observe set measures, rules and requirements meant to uphold public health.
“Suppliers to markets should be facilitated to reach the markets, including by our security forces; inter-city/town public transport and inessential transport to all rural areas remains banned.
“All approved buses and vehicles for public transport should ensure and enforce public health standards, including the screening of passengers before boarding and the disinfecting of all public vehicles after each round trip.
“Public gatherings for social, religious or political purposes remain banned. Funeral gatherings remain curtailed in line with public health requirements,” Mnangagwa further announced.
He also warned that desertion from quarantine centres by returnees and infected persons would be considered a criminal act, inviting robust responses from law and public health-enforcement arms.
“Anyone who knowingly exposes, aids, abets, or infects innocent persons, whether by breaching conditions of isolation or by encouraging actions which undermine public health measures which government has announced or undertaken will be liable, and will be severely punished.
“These measures are being taken for our collective safety. As Zimbabweans, we have to win the war against the Covid-19 pandemic.
“I, as your president, will come back to you to announce the easing of these public health measures once the situation has improved,” Mnangagwa added.
Zimbabwe has been under an indefinite lockdown which authorities had hoped would keep in check the lethal virus, which is now threatening to spiral out of control.
Amid the increasing death toll and rising cases of infections, authorities at the weekend gave a hint of the new tough measures when they said they were “terrified” by the spread of Covid-19 among communities in the country.
Acting Health minister, Amon Murwira, told the Daily News’s sister publication, the Daily News On Sunday, that increases in local transmissions was a sign that the lethal virus was now running amok.
“The exponential increase of the country’s confirmed Covid-19 cases are very worrying and terrifying at the same time, given that we are now recording more locally transmitted cases.
“It is indicative of the fact that the virus has infiltrated our communities and now more than ever is the time that we must unite in order to stop the situation from further escalating.
“The next few weeks are going to be critical as we are likely to see the numbers escalating further,” Murwira told the Daily News On Sunday.
“An increase in local transmissions is also indicative of the fact that people are now disregarding the rules and regulations of the national lockdown meant to mitigate the spread of the virus.
“What we are saying is that people need to continue observing social distancing, sanitising or washing their hands with soap and staying at home and avoiding unnecessary movement.
“This cannot be over emphasised. People need to start acting like they are paranoid,” Murwira said further.
“What this means is that you need to look at the next person as if he or she has the virus and then be able to observe all regulations meant to mitigate the spread of the virus, or to look at yourself as if you have the virus and stop mingling with people in order to protect them from the virus,” he added.