By Farirai Machivenyika
President Mnangagwa yesterday re-opened Zimbabwe’s economy following almost two months of level four lockdown restrictions that brought most businesses to a standstill after a second and more intense wave of the Covid-19 infections that has now largely been beaten back.
In the same address he put schools, colleges and universities on alert to prepare now for re-opening, although he did not give a date when this would happen.
While most economic activities have been allowed to resume, including those in the informal sector, and the education sector is preparing to re-open — all under tight World Health Organisation Covid-19 protocols — social gatherings remain limited to not more than 50 people and bars and nightclubs remain shut as the country keeps guard against any form of complacency.
In January, the country reverted to level four lockdown, following a spike in infections and deaths but after swift intervention by Government the curves peaked and then started falling with some recent days recording zero Covid-19 deaths.
Announcing the new set of measures at State House, the President stressed that the wearing of masks, washing of hands or use of hand sanitisers in public areas remained mandatory as these had worked to help tame infection rates.
“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 up to 7pm to reduce congestion and must enforce social distancing within premises,” he said.
Industry will now open with strict adherence to WHO set standards and national Covid-19 guidelines such as regular disinfection of premises, social distancing, hand sanitisation and temperature checks among others. Non-compliance will attract targeted closure of entities.
Small to Medium Enterprises, food markets and the informal sector can re-open on condition they adhere to WHO guidelines.
Inter-city travel can now resume with bus operators required to ensure the disinfection of buses, wearing of masks and sanitisation of passengers.
While not giving dates of re-opening, President Mnangagwa said schools, colleges and universities must continue to prepare for re-opening under WHO and national Covid-19 guidelines and encouraged adoption of virtual or long distance learning where possible.
Gatherings for funerals will remain at a maximum of 30 people while other social gatherings should not exceed 50.
Restaurants will only be permitted to open for takeaways and deliveries while bars, beerhalls, nightclubs and gyms will remain closed. Bottle stores, like other shops, will only open for takeaways.
The President also noted the decline in the number of deaths, hospitalisations and deaths and urged Zimbabweans to remain vigilant in the fight against Covid-19.
The vaccination programme that began a week ago would continue with more doses expected to arrive in the country.
The first phase is targeting frontline workers that include health workers, the security sector, media workers, the elderly and those with underlying conditions.
“As Government we are pleased with the positive 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 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,” President Mnangagwa said.
The President also thanked the Chinese government for its donation of 400 000 doses of vaccines and said a further 600 000 doses bought by Government from China would be arriving soon while a further 1,2 million had been availed by Chinese companies.
He expressed gratitude to India, Russia and Britain for the pledges of donations they have made.
“The vaccination will be done for free. Private entities and organisations who want to procure the vaccines for their staff or members, must be prepared to distribute for free. Government will not allow any form of profiteering from the vaccination programme,” he said.
After a surge in infections following the festive season Zimbabwe re-introduced Level 4 on January 5 for 30-days and extended this twice at fortnightly intervals.