Lockdown extended by two more weeks

Zimbabwe is targeting to vaccinate at least 10 million people against the COVID-19 virus with five million more doses expected in the country
Zimbabwe is targeting to vaccinate at least 10 million people against the COVID-19 virus with five million more doses expected in the country

HARARE (FinX) – President Mnangagwa has extended the lockdown by a further two weeks noting that while the rate of coronavirus infections had fallen, the numbers were still high to warrant easing of the current level four lockdown.

However, the extension relaxes curfew, which is now from 2000hrs to 0530hrs from 1800hrs to 0600hrs while it also extends operating hours to 1700hrs from 1500hrs previously.

In an address to the nation, which lasted under 10 minutes, President Mnangagwa said the goals for the national lockdown, which was imposed on January 3, 2021, are within sight with the country witnessing a decrease in infections and deaths, but the number of active cases is still high.

“The extension will allow the number of active cases and those still in incubation to recede and allow the health workers time to evaluate the possible presence of new variants. The numbers need to come down further. Every life lost is a big loss to us,” says the President who lost several ministers due to the virus.

The latest stats show that the country recorded 68 new cases of the virus on February14, and two deaths while recoveries rose to 87% out of the 35172 cumulative cases.

The announcement comes as Zimbabwe received the first consignment of the 200 000 doses of Sinopharm vaccine – Vero –, which was donated by China. However, while vaccines are expected to bring down the rate of infections, the government has chosen to approach the rollout with carefulness and caution. Firstly because of the Sinopharm efficacy. It reported 79% efficacy in an interim evaluation but its efficacy against the UK and SA variants are still in trial phases. Secondly that China itself is yet to complete vaccinating its own population, the same with other vaccine manufacturing countries, which means that rollout to third world countries is expected to be slower.

President Mnangagwa said the second consignment of vaccines (600 000 doses) procured from China will be received in a few weeks (March). Additional vaccines will also be received from Russia, China and the United Kingdom. As has been reported already on this service, Government plans to procure 1.8 million doses, and to carry on with procurement until the vaccines cover the herd immunity population of about 10 million Zimbabweans.

The goal, Mnangagwa said, is a return to normal lives so that children go back to school and that collective efforts can go towards economic recovery and the realisation of Vision 2030.

Zimbabwe Nurses Association president Enoch Dongo welcomed the extension of the lockdown saying people should not be fooled by the low numbers that have been recorded recently but remain vigilant to avoid a third wave of the pandemic.

“Considering South Africa has recently opened its borders the risk of more imported cases was going to increase if we had lifted the lockdown. The two weeks are therefore key to ascertain if the low figures being recorded are real figures of what is actually happening on the ground” said Dongo.

Key highlights of the extended lockdown

  • Hours of business extended to 0800hrs to 1700hrs,
  • Curfew relaxed to 2000hrs to 0530hrs,
  • Essential services to remain functional,
  • Increased testing from Health Ministry while private companies seeking resumption of operations should test all employees,
  • Government manning levels to increase to 25% from 10%
  • Judiciary to open for urgent cases while all who attend court will be tested,
  • Schools to remain closed for the duration of the extension,
  • Markets to remain open while those in the informal sector may only open once they have satisfied WHO protocols,
  • No intercity and interprovincial commuting,
  • Funeral gatherings remain pegged at 30 while all social gatherings remain banned,
  • All burials to be handled according to WHO regulations.

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