PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa yesterday relaxed the country’s hard coronavirus lockdown that has been in place since January — thereby opening up the economy and allowing freer movement of people.
The easing up of the lockdown restrictions come as Zimbabwe has had 36 089 confirmed Covid-19 cases, including 1 463 deaths as at the weekend. Most welcomingly, the country did not record any coronavirus-related fatalities on Saturday and Sunday.
In a review of lockdown regulations, Mnangagwa said while preventive measures such as putting on masks, sanitising and temperature checks remained mandatory in public places, all citizens were now free to go about their day-to-day businesses without having to produce requisite movement letters — while all businesses can now also open.
“The curfew is adjusted and will now be from 10pm to 5.30am. Letters are no longer required for movement. Supermarkets can now remain open until 7pm to reduce congestion and must enforce social distancing within their premises.
“Industry is to re-open with strict adherence to World Health Organisation (WHO) set standards and the national Covid-19 guidelines such as regular disinfection of premises, social distancing, hand sanitisation and body temperature checks at entrances. “Non-compliance in this regard will attract the targeted closure of such entities,” Mnangagwa said.
The president added that small to medium sized enterprises, as well as food markets and the informal sectors, could now also reopen, on condition that they strictly adhere to the WHO’s set standards and national lockdown regulations.
“Inter-city travel can now resume. Bus operators must, however, ensure the disinfection of their buses, wearing of masks, temperature checks and sanitisation of passengers.
“Funeral gatherings will remain at 30 people and other social gatherings shall not exceed 50 people. Restaurants can only open for takeaways and deliveries, with no sit in.
“Beerhalls, bars, night clubs and gymnasiums remain closed. Bottle stores must strictly operate for take-aways as required by the law,” Mnangagwa said.
All citizens were also urged to remain alert and on guard, to maintain the positive momentum that the country has achieved in containing the virulent respiratory illness.
“As the vaccination programme is under way, let us continue to minimise the risk of spikes in the number of cases by adhering to the WHO’s public health protocols and the additional preventive measures announced by the government from time to time.
“The government has rolled out the first phase of the national Covid-19 vaccination programme which targets frontline workers, the security sector and the media, the elderly and those with underlying conditions. “I would like once again to reassure the nation that more vaccines are coming and people will have the opportunity to be vaccinated,” the president added.
“As the government, we are pleased with the response from the targeted groups. The overwhelming number of enquiries from those outside the first phase target groups is encouraging as they indicate their desire to be vaccinated.
“While the vaccination programme is voluntary, let us remain mindful of the need to protect ourselves, our loved ones and the entire nation.
“The dissemination of factual information on the efficacy of the vaccines will be increased across all media platforms,” Mnangagwa also said.
The vaccination programme is in three phases, with the second phase to prioritise the elderly and people with comorbidities — the presence of one or more health conditions that include those living with HIV and Aids, as well as diabetes. The rest of the population will be vaccinated in the third and final phase of the programme.
Mnangagwa also took the opportunity yesterday to express the government’s appreciation of Covid-19 donations that had been received so far.
“On behalf of the government and the people of Zimbabwe, I once again express my gratitude to China for the additional donation of 200 000 more doses of vaccines made to Zimbabwe last week.
“This generous gift will greatly contribute to our quest to achieve herd immunity. Over and above the combined total of 400 000 donated doses, another 600 000 doses of Chinese vaccines will arrive in the coming weeks.
“A further 1,2 million doses have also been availed by Chinese companies to Zimbabwe. I equally express our gratitude to Russia, India and the United Kingdom who have pledged donations of various vaccines,” Mnangagwa said.
He also reiterated the fact that all vaccines will be administered to citizens for free. “Private entities and organisations who want to procure vaccines for their staff or members must be prepared to distribute the vaccines for free,” he said