PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa, pictured, last night announced that the country would go on a 21-day total shutdown as part of measures to combat the spread of the deadly coronavirus (Covid-19) which has so far killed one Zimbabwean, the Daily News reports.
Opposition leader Nelson Chamisa immediately welcomed the lockdown, saying it was “necessary, wise and supported”.
“The decision to lock down Zimbabwe is necessary, wise and supported. We are in circumstances of a catastrophe.
“There is only one Zimbabwe. We are one people. Politics aside, we must unite to save lives. Measures to test, detect the virus and cushion the vulnerable are essential!” he said on Twitter.
This comes as the number of people infected by the virus in Zimbabwe continues to rise, after the country recorded three new cases on Thursday — also at a time more than 25 000 people have died and nearly half a million infected around the world.
At the same time, regional power and Zimbabwe’s biggest trading partner, South Africa, yesterday recorded its first two deaths owing to Covid-19, as the number of its people infected by the deadly disease also breached the
1 000 mark.
This came as the neighbouring country entered its first day of a 21-day lockdown, following a raft of tough measures that were recently announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa — which include the closure of all airspaces and some borders.
In a national address last night, Mnangagwa said he had decided to take the drastic measures in advance to avoid loss of lives.
“Covid-19 is upon us and if experience elsewhere is anything to go by it can spread in leaps and bounds in so short a time.
“We are worried that even though our numbers remain low there is a possibility of wider spread in communities.
“Further, in a few months’ time winter will be upon us creating conditions ideal for more infections, we should therefore take measures ahead of the danger.
“Starting Monday 30 March and subject to further review, Zimbabwe will be under a total lockdown for a period of 21 days.
“This means all our citizens are required to stay at home except for those in essential services, those related to seeking health care and to the purchase and procurement of food and medicines and for other essential supplies and critical services,” Mnangagwa announced.
“Workers manning our essential services including health services and outlets, emergency and security services, and operation of key utilities like water and power are exempted.
“To ensure compliance, I have instructed the command element to deploy as appropriate in support of civilian authority.
“All civil servants on duty in line with the decisions and directives of the Public Service Commission and heads of ministries and departments and the ad hoc taskforce will be allowed unrestricted movement,” he further said.
“In respect to open markets, only food related markets will be allowed to operate even then under the direct watch of health personnel, markets selling clothes and other non-food markets will stay closed and should it become necessary security forces will be deployed to enforce these and other measures.
“Until further notice all public transport operations will stand suspended, only Zupco and Public Service Commission buses will be exempted from this directive.
“Water and ablution services are key to fighting the pandemic, government and local authorities will step up efforts to ensure regular and reliable water supply to all residential areas,” Mnangagwa continued.
“Municipalities are expected to ensure smooth refuse collection and sewer reticulation in all areas.
“To ensure that our hospitals are not overwhelmed and that other normal hospital services are not compromised, more separate treatment and isolation units and facilities will be established either on hospital sites or other identified centres whether public or private as designated by the minister of Health.
“To expedite testing and diagnostic services, government will decentralise the testing of Covid-19 to provincial hubs throughout the country,” he added.
This week the government added more measures it said would help combat the spread of coronavirus when it gazetted Statutory Instrument 77 (SI 77), further arrogating it powers to arrest people found breaking the law and also enforcing mandatory testing for suspected coronavirus cases.
According to the new regulations gazetted on Monday, government will have the right to visit any homes in search of persons who could be infected.
“Any person who — (a) disobeys an order … having been ordered to be detained, isolated or quarantined in any place, removes himself or herself from such detention, isolation or quarantine without the knowledge or consent of an enforcement officer, or contrary to any conditions specified for any temporary release from such detention, isolation or quarantine; shall be guilty of an offence and liable to a fine not exceeding level 12 or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding one year to both such fine and such imprisonment.
“Any person who escapes from any place of detention, isolation or quarantine may be arrested without warrant,” read the regulations in part.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the coronavirus comes from a large family of viruses that cause illnesses ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases.
Its symptoms include pneumonia, high fever, flu, shortness of breath and diarrhoea — and the precautions that have to be taken include covering the mouth when coughing and sneezing, and continuously washing one’s hands.
Zimbabwe recorded its first coronavirus death on Monday — after talented television personality Zororo Makamba — who was the youngest son of telecommunications tycoon and former legendary broadcaster James Makamba — died at Wilkins Hospital, after being diagnosed with the lethal virus.
The Makambas later narrated a heart-rending story in an exclusive interview with the Daily News about how Wilkins Hospital is ill-prepared for coronavirus — which led to them feeling “betrayed” by authorities.
Zororo’s death grabbed the attention of many people both in Zimbabwe and abroad, leading to pressure being exerted on the government to step up its coronavirus preparations.
Among other things, the Makamba family said Wilkins Hospital was poorly equipped to treat patients infected by coronavirus.
On its part, Harare City Council, which manages the creaking facility, has since opened a probe into the circumstances which led to Zororo’s death.