By Herald Reporters
Most businesses across the country that had been closed for the last two months under the resumed level four lockdown imposed to beat back the second wave of Covid-19 infections re-opened yesterday, within hours of President Mnangagwa announcing the relaxation in the lockdown on Monday afternoon.
Traders and vendors in the informal sector were also more active, and there was more traffic on the road and pedestrians on the streets. Almost everyone was wearing masks and the re-opened businesses were careful to insist on customers wearing masks, sanitising their hands and not crowding.
Following the slow decline in infections and deaths since the peak of the second wave in mid-January, the Government then decided that the lower risks justified a general re-opening of the economy but with the personal precautions of masks and social distancing remaining and only a modest rise in social gatherings to a maximum of 50 people, which will mainly allow church services to take place in batches.
The courts have also re-opened to a degree. Civil weddings are now allowed at magistrates courts, but only with the minimum group of five: marriage officer, the couple and the two witnesses.
Business people were happy at the easing. Even restaurants and bottle stores can re-open, but only to sell take-aways with no sitting diners and no one allowed to drink in or near a bottle store.
Confederation of Zimbabwe Retailers president Mr Denford Mutashu thanked Government for the move saying it will inject life into businesses across the country.
“The Confederation of Zimbabwe Retailers welcomes the balanced review of the lockdown by His Excellency President Emmerson Mnangagwa which focuses on fighting the Covid-19 pandemic while opening up the economy.
“The measured lockdown extension has eased business operations and CZR is of the strong view that this will play a significant role in injecting life into various businesses. The fact that exemption letters are no longer required is a great move towards smoothening movement of essential service providers and goods and services.
He added that SMEs and food markets will now open guided by WHO protocols.
“CZR is of the belief that there is need for relevant ministries to be proactive and set out these guidelines as more failed to reopen despite the President announcing same in the previous lockdown.
“Going forward there is need to operationalise a stimulus package for the informal sector and SMEs who have been closed for a long time as some used up their capital to keep them going during lockdown. In conclusion, it is however critical that retailers, wholesalers must continue to adhere to strict Covid-19 prevention measures.” Intercity travelling also resumed, with buses leaving Harare to destinations that included Masvingo, Beitbridge, Mutare, Gokwe and Bulawayo.
At the famous Mbudzi roundabout, hundreds of passengers and a dozen long distance buses plying the Harare-Beitbridge route could be seen. At the popular Harare Exhibition Park bus stops, buses plying the Harare-Bulawayo road were loading passengers.
Zimbabwe Passenger Transport Organisation chairperson Mr Samson Nhanhanga also welcomed the move by the Government to open intercity services.
“We want to thank President Mnangagwa for allowing us to resume intercity operations. Transport industry is the backbone of the country. We really appreciate the move and we are thankful. All bus operators and their crews will adhere to World Health Organisation guidelines as advised by President Mnangagwa. All bus crews will observe Covid-19 guidelines. We will check temperatures of all passengers before boarding the bus. All buses will be fumigated before and after ferrying passengers. No-one will be allowed into the bus without wearing a face mask.
A survey carried by The Herald in Harare yesterday revealed a hive of business activity in Harare city centre and on major malls, as well as smaller suburban shopping centres.
Police were deployed across the city and in suburbs to monitor the businesses and shoppers and ensure that Covid-19 regulations, especially the wearing of face masks, were being followed.
Boutiques, downtown wholesale shops and other shops were open to the public with customer temperatures being checked and customers having to sanitise hands before being allowed entrance.
A visit to Mbare revealed that vendors, particularly those who sell second hand clothes had also resumed operations.
In Mashonaland Central, people have started moving freely with small businesses in Bindura opening up. Parents could be seen buying uniforms and school materials in anticipation of school opening.
A Bindura resident, Mr Fortune Chatima said he is happy that he is able to move without the requirement of a letter.
The Mashonaland Central provincial medical director Dr Clemence Tshuma said there are only seven active cases in the province with zero Covid-19 infection and no deaths recorded during past 24 hours.
Business was back to normal in Chinhoyi with most informal traders and the small and medium shops now open. There was high human and traffic volume in Chinhoyi town centre. However, police continued to maintain order and enforcing World Health Organisation lockdown regulations including proper wearing of masks, sanitising and social distancing.
In Beitbridge, authorities at the town council have instructed shops which will now operate under the new lockdown regulations to install the necessary equipment including sanitisers and handwashing facilities at their premises before reopening for businesses.