WITH the country reeling from a seemingly more deadly second wave of coronavirus, the government moved to re-introduce tougher lockdown measures last night — including a fresh dusk-to-dawn curfew.
In addition, the operations of all businesses — except those providing essential services — were once again suspended for 30 days, as authorities fight to curb the spread of the lethal disease.
The re-imposed dusk-to-dawn curfew means that people are prohibited anew from being out and about between 6pm and 6am, except for those providing essential services.
In addition, supermarkets will operate from 8am up to 3pm. But air travel and essential land transportation across borders for trucks will continue under the new measures announced last night by Vice President Constantino Chiwenga, who is also the country’s Health minister.
This comes amid soaring deaths and the rapid spread of the lethal respiratory disease — which has killed 29 people in the past week alone, amid a worrying slip in discipline by ordinary Zimbabweans who are increasingly disregarding Covid-19 protocols and safety guidelines.
Announcing the tougher new measures last night, Chiwenga said these had been necessitated by the alarming deaths and number of people who were being infected by the deadly virus.
“Gatherings are reduced to not more than 30 people at all funerals. All other gatherings at weddings, churches, bars, bottle stores, gymnasiums, restaurants etc etc are banned for 30 days.
“The existing Covid-19 preventative health measures will be strictly enforced, that is to say correct wearing of face masks, social distancing, hand sanitisation and temperature checks will be strictly enforced and offenders will be prosecuted.
“Only essential services are to remain open such as hospitals, pharmacies and supermarkets, with only essential staff allowed to come to work.
“These services can only open at 8 am and must close at 3pm, and will be subject to curfew that will start at 6pm and end at 6am.
“Of the other commercial services, only part 4 of lockdown order services such as mining, manufacturing and agriculture will operate as before.
“Other commercial services specified on part 5 of the lockdown order, that is to say all formal businesses and registered informal traders are suspended from Tuesday 5 January 2021 for 30 days.
“Inter-provincial and inter-city transport services are restricted only to essential services and part 4 commercial services.
“People must stay at home save for buying food and medicines or transporting sick relatives. Other exceptions are as specified in the lockdown order,” Chiwenga said as Zimbabwe officially acknowledged a second wave of coronavirus.
This comes as positive Covid-19 cases have almost doubled in the past two months — from 8 374 on November 1 to 14 084.
As of yesterday, the death toll now also stood at 369.
Chiwenga said further yesterday that schools would remain closed, with only exam classes being allowed to go on.
“As for schooling only examination classes are to open now. Cross border traders are stopped forthwith, save for commercial and transit cargo-related to essential and critical services.
“Air transportation remains unhindered and will continue as before, with arrivals and returning residents being required to present Covid-19 free certificates.
“As for land access, only returning residents and essential service drivers will be admitted subject to presentation of Covid-19 free certificates. These certificates must have been issued at least 48 hours before departure.
“Just to be clear, restaurants, bottle stores and bars are closed for 30 days except for bars and restaurants serving hotel residents.
“Also, tourist facilities and national parks will operate as before, subject to the usual health precautions,” Chiwenga announced further.
Earlier, and ahead of the announcement of the new restrictions, the government had warned that the continuing fall in discipline among Zimbabweans with regards to Covid-19 would see more and more people getting infected by the lethal respiratory disease.
The warning came after Zimbabwe recorded 459 cases on Thursday and Friday last week alone.
Speaking to the Daily News On Sunday earlier yesterday, government spokesperson Nick Mangwana cautioned the public against continuing to be indifferent towards the disease, by violating coronavirus restrictions imposed by authorities to curb its spread in the country.
“The challenge we have is that if the figures escalate, we will be overwhelmed and be overrun because we didn’t build our hospitals to cater for Covid-19 patients alone.
“We have other patients with various ailments that also must make use of the public health system — including heart, cancer and diabetes patients, among many others.
“We recorded nearly 500 positive new cases in two days and lost close to ten people, and it obviously means that if it so happens that these new cases need a hospital bed, we will most likely run out of beds because of the inherent weaknesses in the health delivery system,” Mangwana further told the Daily News On Sunday.
He called upon citizens to behave responsibly by adhering to World Health Organisation (WHO) Covid-19 guidelines, saying the government had not yet considered further toughening its lockdown measures.
“It should be remembered that we are still in lockdown level two, yet complacency is setting in amongst us. The two issues we need to take seriously as a country are compliance and enforcement.
“It is the responsibility of the citizenry to act responsibly; not because they will be arrested, but because they must take care of their health.
“For those who refuse to be responsible and comply voluntarily, law enforcement agents must enforce. If someone cannot be responsible, they ought to be forced … and so there is need to intensify enforcement of existing restrictions,” Mangwana further told the Daily News On Sunday.
This comes as concerned health experts have warned anew that the country is facing a Covid-19 storm which could have devastating consequences for the nation and its people.
It also comes amid a worrying slip of discipline among many Zimbabwean communities, with a New Year’s eve gathering in Harare’s high density suburb of Mbare, for example, highlighting the growing lack of vigilance that locals now have regarding the deadly respiratory disease.
Amid the rapidly increasing local infections and deaths, health experts have warned that the new wave of the lethal virus could have dire consequences for the country — especially in the next two months, unless there was a marked change in attitudes by ordinary people.
In addition, the experts also told the Daily News On Sunday’s sister paper, the Daily News, that authorities now needed to move with renewed vigour to revise and monitor the current coronavirus restrictions, to avert a looming catastrophe among many complacent communities.
This came as more people had died in the country — among them prominent Bulawayo businessman Worthwhile Mugabe and Zanu PF European Union and United Kingdom chairperson, Masimba Tawengwa — both of whom became the latest high profile people to succumb to the lethal virus in the run up to the new year.
Former MDC interim leader, Thokozani Khupe, also announced last Wednesday that she had contracted the novel coronavirus, a few days after she had attended the party’s extra-ordinary congress in Harare.
Yesterday Khupe was said to be coping well.
At the same time, most of the upmarket hospitals in the country are said to be flooded with people showing symptoms of Covid-19 — although authorities are yet to confirm this.
It also comes as the government has copped a lot of flak over an illegal New Year’s eve gathering in Mbare, where thousands of people — with some of them without masks — gathering for an unsanctioned music jamboree featuring various township artistes.
The illegal gathering has heightened calls for the re-introduction of tougher lockdown measures like what has happened in South Africa.
Last Monday, South African president Cyril Ramaphosa re-introduced tougher restrictions as his country’s coronavirus infections breached the one million mark.
Ramaphosa also wholly banned alcohol sales, re-introduced a tougher curfew and imposed hefty fines on those breaching lockdown measures, including a mandatory jail term of six months on people caught without wearing face masks.