Lockdown Violations Spike

Flagrant violation of lockdown regulations by small businesses, illegal transporters, imbibers and some churches countrywide is impeding efforts to curb the spread of Covid-19.

Although large parts of the economy have now been exempted from the Covid-19 lockdown regulations, many smaller businesses are bending rules, especially on working hours and social distancing.

While alcohol can be legally sold, people are supposed to drink from home, but illegal beer drinking outlets, commonly known as shebeens, are back in operation.

Beer drinkers are reportedly gathering in small parties around beer outlets with some even having the audacity to publicly roast meat.

Some churches have also been found to be exposing congregants to Covid-19 infection. While main line churches are very compliant and take many precautions to avoid infecting their worshippers, there are those that want large groups to congegrate.

Problems have also been noted in the informal sector where desperation is driving many into breaking rules.

Only a few in this sector are closing at exactly 4.30pm as there is a chance of a few extra sales.

In Harare, more people are travelling to the city centre and many do so legally, even if they do not work there.

Besides the density of the small licensed businesses, and more of these are legally re-opening, there is also the growing transit traffic. The road system and the Zimbabwe United Passenger Company (Zupco) service, compel many to drive through the city centre or switch buses in the city centre to get from one side of the city to the other.

Police still man checkpoints although increasingly, duty officers sample the passing traffic rather than create tailbacks stretching for a kilometre.

Because most passengers on Zupco buses are legal and the crews compliant with regulations , few of these are now stopped.

Worryingly, private kombis not operating under Zupco are rarely stopped and cars tightly packed with passengers are not checked very often, allowing mushikashika to operate at will.

Mask wearing is variable. Everyone has one, but a lot of people leave the nose at least out and many pull it down to the chin or neck.

While this presents no danger when walking away from others in the open, it does raise the risks of infection in more crowded areas. Zupco conductors insist on proper masking, but the illegals do not, with even the conductor screaming out the destination and fare going unmasked.

In Midlands, there has been an influx of people, especially in city and town centres, with people going about their business without observing any social distancing. Most residents are also not properly using their face masks in public places as they leave the face masks dangling, thereby exposing themselves and others to the virus.

In Mashonaland West, lockdown violations are spiking, with the provincial Covid-19 taskforce team raising alarm.

In Chinhoyi, Chegutu, Murombedzi and Mhangura many people are no longer adhering to social distancing and sanitisation, while wearing of face masks is also not being prioritised.

Apart from consuming alcoholic beverages in restricted taverns, the use of houses as shebeens is also said to be on the rise in most parts of the province with some members of the community sneaking over the border into Zambia to smuggle.

Mashonaland West Provincial Affairs Minister Mary Mliswa-Chikoka expressed concern over the level of complacency and urged citizens to adhere to regulations.

“We are worried that people across the province are failing to adhere to the lockdown regulations. A lot of teachers have also joined the bandwagon of violating the lockdown regulations by putting the lives of pupils in danger,” she said.

Many teachers are conducting extra lessons at their houses in violation of health protocols. Provincial social welfare development officer, Mrs Agnes Mutowo said no escapees have been reported since June due to tight security at all quarantine centres.

Meanwhile, Zimplats recently stepped up efforts to cut the Covid-19 infection risk in Chegutu, Mhondoro-Ngezi and Norton last week. The mine conducted awareness campaigns aimed at increasing compliance levels in communities.

Head of corporate affairs, Mrs Busi Chindove, said their efforts were aimed at complementing Government measures in fighting the Covid-19 pandemic. Zimplats also unveiled similar campaigns for its over 6 000 employees.

In Kariba some shebeens are being opened well into the night while some people gather around beer outlets. At public places such as Nyamhunga Shopping Centre and Mahombekombe, imbibers can be seen sharing beer freely without wearing face masks or maintaining social distancing exposing themselves to infection.

In Masvingo, there has been an increase in lockdown violations across the province with people disregarding Covid-19 regulations.

While roadblocks to control movement of people and traffic into urban centres remain in place, cases of lockdown violations have been on the increase over the past month.

Even gatherings at churches and bottle stores are slowly creeping back, raising the spectre of a spike in Covid-19 cases. Even though police continue to patrol suburban areas and keep a close eye on bottle stores to curtail gatherings, there has been a general increase in violations, especially in Masvingo City, Chiredzi, Mupandawana and Ngundu.

Shebeens have also sprouted in most suburbs bringing together huge numbers of people beyond the recommended 50. In some cases nightlife, particularly in urban areas is slowly coming back to the pre-lockdown era.

Matabeleland South has seen cases of lockdown violations increasing. In most cases, people play cat and mouse with the police, mostly at business centres where lockdown protocols are not adhered to. Though shebeens and other beer outlets are operating, police carry out raids in Beitbridge.

Matabeleland South police spokesperson said they have arrested a total of 6 906 people for failing to observe lockdown regulations.

Residents in Mutare have continuously been disregarding lockdown regulations, with public areas becoming more and more congested over the past weeks. Once again drinking in and outside bottle stores is the largest single risk, especially during weekends.

Manicaland police spokesperson said police was on high alert to bring offenders to book. He said patrols had been increased to curb the increase of people not observing the curfew, while those opening their shops and bottle stores beyond the stipulated operating hours were also being arrested.

In Mashonaland Central, particularly in Bindura, Shamva and Mt Darwin, non-Zupco kombis have resurfaced.

However, passengers disembark before roadblocks, walk past and then reboard the waiting vehicles after the police checkpoints.

Although beerhalls remain closed, people buy and braai at backyards.

National police spokesperson, Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi said it was an offence for people to violate Covid-19 regulations.

“We have since advised all our police officers to be on the lookout and arrest all those who are violating lockdown regulations. We have also noticed that kombi operators are now ferrying passengers, and will not hesitate to arrest the drivers and impound the vehicles,” he said.

On laxity in enforcement, Asst Comm Nyathi said commanders were compelled to enforce compliance with lockdown regulations, adding that any indications of slackness would be looked into.

He urged members of the media and the public at large to assist the police with information on those violating lockdown regulations and breaking curfew instructions.

The director for Epidemiology and Disease Control in the Ministry of Health and Child Care, Dr Portia Manangazira said the national framework for containment of the Covid-19 infection remains in place “in terms of: restricting movement to only that which is essential, limiting crowds to 50 persons or less and even then ensuring social distancing to at least one metre apart” wearing of face masks in public and hand sanitisation.

As long as there is no immunity to Covid-19, Dr Manangazira said, these measures must stay.

In an interview with The Herald, the vice chairman of the Ad-Hoc Inter-Ministerial Taskforce on Covid-19, Professor Amon Murwira attributed the country’s success story, which has seen recoveries increasing from less than 26 percent to about 79 percent in three weeks, to adherence to the set World Health Organisation protocols, but warned that the country cannot afford to drop its guard.

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