Government reviews Covid-19 rules

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By Mugove Tafirenyika and Godknows Matarutse

THE government has reviewed some of the country’s Covid-19 regulations, including adjusting upwards the opening times of restaurants and allowing a maximum of 100 people at all gatherings, the Daily News reports.

Speaking during a post-Cabinet briefing in Harare yesterday, Information minister Monica Mutsvangwa, said because of the different numbers the government had specified for various types of gatherings, there has been “general confusion and violations of restrictions”.

“Accordingly, henceforth, the number of people permitted at any gathering is restricted to 100, irrespective of what the gathering is being convened for,” Mutsvangwa said.

The minister said with the country opening up its borders yesterday, the government was anticipating an increase of tourists and returning citizens.

“Opening hours of restaurants will, therefore, be extended from the current 1830 hours closing time to 2000 hours closing time. “Restaurant operators are called upon to strictly observe these hours of operation, ensure Covid-19 prevention protocols and guidelines are observed, which will be strictly enforced.

“Similarly, those patronising the restaurants should ensure that they adhere to curfew hours,” she said. Under the previous Covid-19 restrictions, some gatherings such as churches, parties and funerals were only allowed 50 people while restaurants opened up to 1830 hours.

When it was put to her that the restrictions review had potential to further expose citizens, the chairperson of the Covid-19 inter-ministerial taskforce, Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri said the decision was based on expert advice. “It is an exaggeration to say that the move will expose citizens to more infections because our experts have told us that the current increases in cases we are experiencing are because we are now carrying out more tests after schools opened. It is from the schools that we are getting some of the cases,” Muchinguri-Kashiri said.

However, Mutsvangwa said despite the adjustments, the government remained concerned with the continued spike in new confirmed cases from 281 recorded in week 46 to 594 in week 47 following the reopening of schools.

“In order to control the spread of Covid-19 in schools, the following measures are being implemented: intensification of the supervision and inspection of boarding school facilities; providing potable water to 48 schools in Bulawayo which are in dire need of the essential commodity; strengthening of public health response measures in affected schools,” she said.

This comes as Zimbabwe’s Covid-19 cases have now breached the 10 000- mark following 84 new cases reported on Monday. In an update, the Health ministry revealed that the number of locally transmitted cases had significantly increased in the last few weeks.

“As at November 30, 2020, Zimbabwe had 10 034 confirmed cases, including 8 489 recoveries and 277 deaths,” the ministry said.

When the novel virus initially hit our shores in March, the government imposed a strict lockdown which banned all public gatherings, borders were sealed off and only essential services were allowed to operate.

However, in recent weeks the government has been relaxing the measures with inter-city travel now allowed, while schools began to reopen in a staggered manner since September.

All borders were officially reopened yesterday with members of the public allowed to enter or exit the country provided they presented a Covid-19 free certificate and did not show any signs of the pandemic.

But all this return to normalcy was coming at a time when the country was reporting an increase in positive cases, especially in learning institutions. Just recently, John Tallach Secondary in Matabeleland South was closed after recording 189 cases, while in Mashonaland West Province, Chinhoyi High School’s infections have gone up to 88. On the other hand, Matopo High School in Matabeleland South has 10 positive cases while Harare’s David Lvingstone Primary School recorded a single case.

Positive cases were also reported at Midlands State University and Chinhoyi University of Technology. In a recent nterview with the Daily News, Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights secretary-general Norman Matara predicted that the country could be headed for a difficult period now that Covid-19 infections are being recorded in communities.

“What makes everything scary is that contact tracing becomes difficult if not impossible under circumstances where someone boards a bus, say from Chitungwiza to town, then discovers that they are positive. “Imagine how any people they would have come into contact with on the bus queue and while they are in town? How is tracing possible? That means a lot of people from various suburbs would have been infected which makes it difficult to control.

“Given such a scenario the onus is on citizens to protect themselves because the government has no capacity to test everyone and it is worrisome. “We are certainly in a fix as a country because the infections in schools are being ransmitted back into the communities that the students come from.

The country’s health delivery system could soon be overwhelmed and that is why we think that there is a need for our people to be responsible for their own safety,” Matara said

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