Zimbabweans To Remain On Lockdown And Wearing Face Masks Indefinitely
17 May 2020
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President Emmerson Mnangagwa addressing the nation on Saturday

State Media|President Emmerson Mnangagwa has said the national Covid-19 lockdown would remain on Level 2 until further notice, with assessments set to be carried out every two weeks to determine any additional measures.

Announcing the latest decision in Harare on Saturday, Mnangagwa, stressed the importance of a strategic and gradual easing out of the lockdown to safeguard the gains attained so far.

Consequently, schools were set to reopen in a phased manner, giving priority to exam classes, but dates would be announced in due course.

Zimbabwe has been on Level 2 lockdown for the past two weeks.

As of yesterday, 42 people had tested positive while 13 had recovered. Four people have so far died from the pandemic.

Stressing that Zimbabwe would not relent in its efforts to subdue the disease, the President said only disinfected Zupco buses and commuter omnibuses (kombis) contracted to the public transport operator will be allowed to ferry commuters while private commuter omnibuses remain banned.

Businesses which had been operating from 9am to 3pm, would now be allowed to open shop from 8am to 4.30pm.

With regards to informal business as well as small and medium enterprises, President Mnangagwa said: “Consultations on the phased re-opening of the informal sector are still ongoing. To date, only designated food markets shall be permitted to open.”

Furthermore, the testing capacity in all provinces using the recommended PCR testing kits are set to be increased.

A Statutory Instrument detailing the new ordinances is expected this week.

In his address at State House yesterday, President Mnangagwa said Government was satisfied with the impact of the lockdown so far, but despite many achievements, the outbreak was not over as the country still had some gaps.

“These gaps are being addressed in a targeted way using a comprehensive Covid-19 preparedness and response strategy which takes into account risks and needs of different communities and populations.

“Zimbabwe will, therefore, continue on the Level 2 lockdown for an indefinite period. We shall have regular two-week interval reviews to assess progress or lack of it. This should give us more time to strengthen the prevention and case management approaches for the various risk populations.”

He said under the strategy for reopening, Government would increase testing, early detection, isolation, contact tracing, treatment and focus on high risk populations.

A phased reopening of schools would be carried out soon, starting with exam classes.

“As previously stated, public exam classes and final-year students at colleges and universities must be allowed to continue, recognising however, the stipulated Covid-19 prevention measures. Meanwhile, clear plans of the phased re-opening of schools must continue to be put in place.”

Government was satisfied with the positive impact of the lockdown, as initial estimates had indicated that the country would have 1000 cases by the end of April but this had not been the case.

“Government notes with satisfaction the continued positive impact of the lockdown measures our country has implemented since March 30, 2020, to date. Initial estimates indicated that by April 29, 2020, Zimbabwe would have about 1 000 confirmed Covid-19 cases. Our country, therefore, undertook an intensive surveillance and case finding approach. This entailed testing all hospitalised patients for Covid-19, individuals presenting with fever and influenza-like illnesses as well as contact tracing.

“Based on the modelling, the country needed to test 33 340 in order to identify the estimated 1000 cases. However, as at May 15, 2020, 42 confirmed cases have been identified out of the PCR and RDT tests done.”

He said according to the World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines, Zimbabwe has a “reduced Covid-19 trajectory”. The new measures had thus been put in place to ensure Zimbabwe consolidated the gains made to date.

“We must, thus, continue to minimise the risk of sudden spikes in the number of cases. To this end, it is imperative that we keep the pandemic curve flat to prevent the loss of life and devastating effects on the socio-economic environment of our country.”

The President said as a result of the lockdown, most reported cases had been imported while increased testing, more isolation centres and training of health care workers had also yielded positive results.

Health education and sanitation awareness has also been ratcheted up.

“This has included the translation of Covid-19 related literature into all sixteen national languages. The use of our traditional leadership structures as well as Non-Governmental Organisations, churches, the private sector, media houses, among others will continue to play a big role as we go forward.

“Sanitation, hygiene and general cleanliness has in most instances been improved in all our communities. In this regard, I call upon all local authorities and our citizens in general to strengthen the measures that have been put in place.”

Social distancing, wearing of face masks, temperature checks and hand sanitising remained mandatory. Furthermore, private sector-run testing and isolation centres were also encouraged and would be facilitated in line with directives from the Ministry of Health and Child Care. Zimbabwe went under lockdown on March 30 starting with a 21-day restriction that has been successively followed by two-week limitations since then.