©️ WITH public discipline continuing to slip around the country with regards to the ongoing 21-day national coronavirus lockdown, the government is fortifying its enforcement measures to combat the spread of the deadly disease in the country.
In this light, despairing police told the Daily News last night that they will mount more roadblocks across the country, in a desperate bid to discourage members of the public from breaching the critical lockdown measures that were introduced by the government last week in the interest of the nation.
This comes as authorities revealed yesterday that they arrested 300 people on Thursday who had breached the lockdown measures — bringing the total number of those nabbed since the commencement of the shutdown to 485.
“We have noticed the rising incidence of people moving about, especially to supermarkets where people go and queue whenever they hear that there could be mealie-meal, for example.
“In the process, they violate social distancing measures and also cause stampedes and chaos.
“We also have people who take turns to go and buy beer in pairs, and then move to drink this from their cars — and often challenging police officers when confronted,” national police spokesperson Paul Nyathi told the Daily News.
“Such motorists are advised that the law provides for them to do shopping at centres within a five-kilometre radius of their residence.
“The other issue we have noticed is that of people who go to buy basic commodities everyday, but with the aim of selling them at their backyards.
“We are tightening our operations to force compliance. Covid-19 is real even as some people are taking it for granted,” Nyathi said further.
“Those with exemptions must also use them for national good. We have had some motorists trying to offer our officers money, which is not good.
“We are being compelled to make more arrests to force compliance regarding the measures that have been put in place.
“These measures are for the good of our people and their health, yet some are acting as if they only apply to a few individuals,” Nyathi added.
“We want to warn those that will be found without justification of being outside the 5km radius that they will be arrested and prosecuted,” he also said.
Surveys carried out by the Daily News across the country yesterday showed that there were increased activities in many areas, especially in high density suburbs.
These areas included high density suburbs in Harare, Bulawayo, Chitungwiza and — where our reporters witnessed chaos at many supermarkets, as people queued and jostled to buy basic goods and alcohol.
In Waterfalls in Harare, for example, some customers were blatantly ignoring social distancing recommendations, with some of them arguing that they had no option but to do this in order to be able to buy the goods they were looking for.
“We know of the recommended social distancing, but as you can see, there is no one who is maintaining order here.
“It is difficult to maintain social distancing because some people come from nowhere and go straight into the shop, which is causing chaos,
“Another issue is that supermarkets are closing early and everyone wants to buy groceries before the closing time,” one shopper, Tapiwa, said.
At Zengeza 2 Shopping Centre in Chitungwiza, many informal traders were also conducting their business as usual.
In Seke Urban, many vendors were also selling their wares and vegetables as usual.
“Although we want to avoid the spread of coronavirus, you must know that we want to feed our families.
“If the government wants us to stay home, they must do something to help us because people are suffering,” Takura — a vendor in the area — said.
In Mutare, police tightened their enforcement by setting up road blocks that vetted travellers. This resulted in some of them being turned back.
Police were also continuing to patrol residential areas, dispersing any gatherings that they encountered.
Zupco buses from Zimunya, Fern Valley and Dangamvura, as well as private vehicles, formed a long queue as police mounted roadblocks and also demanded reasons for people travelling.
In Bulawayo, police also manned roadblocks on roads leading into the city centre, blocking those who wanted to access the central business district for unclear reasons.
Police in the second city also deployed officers at supermarkets to enforce lockdown rules.
They also increased patrols in high density suburbs like Mzilikazi and Makokoba, forcing people to retreat back to their homes.
On their part, Zupco bus drivers also screened passengers by only allowing those with valid letters to board.
As the national lockdown progresses, the government instituted a further new law earlier this week that criminalises the gathering of two or more people — except in special circumstances.
Statutory Instrument (SI) 83 of 2020, which operationalises the current lockdown, also criminalises the hoarding of medical supplies needed for coronavirus
Any gathering of more than two people is prohibited — unless people are at a funeral or waiting for public transport.
Even under these two exemptions, the number of people should not exceed 50.
Outside of this, people are only allowed to leave their homes for essential goods and services, including going to shops to buy food or visiting pharmacies for medication, and going to fuel stations.
SI 83 also says if anyone is caught, and refuses to return immediately to his or her home, or has no home, such people would be treated as having escaped from a place of detention, isolation or quarantine.
It also says those found guilty of hoarding medical supplies needed to combat Covid-19 and food will either be jailed for a year or pay a fine.
Severe contraventions will attract both a jail term and a fine.
Zimbabwe recorded its first coronavirus death last week after 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.
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