Farirai Machivenyika Senior Reporter
Zimbabwe goes into a 21-day lockdown on Monday as the number of confirmed Covid-19 cases yesterday rose to five, four in Harare and one in Victoria Falls.
The lockdown was the principal measure announced by President Mnangagwa in an address to the nation from State House last night.
While most businesses will close, essential services and producers and retailers of essential goods will continue to be open, including food shops, pharmacies and informal food markets. Power and water supplies are given high priority.
The measures are being taken to ensure local business can make more of the needed equipment.
Public transport for essential workers will be restricted to services provided by Zimbabwe United Passenger Company (Zupco) and the Public Service Commission (PSC) and they will be implementing new rules on disinfection and passenger spacing.
The lockdown will be enforced and civilian authority can be reinforced by security forces if necessary to ensure this happens and that peace and security are maintained.
The lockdown and other measures announced by the President arise from reports and recommendations from the inter-ministerial taskforce on Covid-19.
Spelling out what the lockdown means, the President said: “This means all our citizens are required to stay at home, except of course in respect of essential movements related to seeking health services; to purchase and procurement of food and medicines and for the essential supplies and critical services.
“Workers manning our essential services, including health services and outlets, emergency and security services, as well as operation of key utilities like power and water, are exempt from this directive.”
The President said he had directed that the National Command Element of the country’s security arms to deploy as appropriate in support of civilian authority. Only civil servants on duty, in line with decisions and directives of the PSC, heads of ministries and the ad-hoc taskforce on Covid-19, will be exempt unrestricted movement.
“While funerals will be exempt from this directive, numbers in attendance should not exceed 50. Visits to hospitals and clinics remain as earlier announced, that is one visitor per patient per day. Motorists seeking to refuel their vehicles will not be allowed to leave their vehicles,” President Mnangagwa said.
In so far as the informal sector was concerned, food markets would be allowed to operate, although under the control of health personnel, while those trading in non-food items would be closed.
The Government will work with local authorities to ensure regular supply of water supplies to residential areas, while the ministries of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services and Health and Child Care had been directed to ensure that communities were aware and comprehensively informed about the pandemic.
Medical care facilities are being expanded so medical facilities can carry their normal load and deal with Covid-19-related cases.
“To ensure that our hospitals are not overwhelmed and that other normal hospital services are not compromised, more separate treatment and isolation units and facilities will be established either at hospitals or on other identified centres, whether public or private, as directed by the Minister of Health and Child Care. To expedite testing diagnostic services, Government will decentralise Covid-19 testing to provincial hubs throughout the country,” the President said.
Local industries and institutions of higher learning would get Government support to produce what they can in light of restricted movement of international traffic and trade in goods and services.
This, the President said, includes the manufacture of medicines, sanitisers, personal protective equipment and establishment of the temporary isolation facilities.
He called for unity of purpose among Zimbabweans and warned that Government would come hard on businesses that would seek to profiteer from the pandemic.
The Government was also taking steps to deal with fake news. “Legal instruments are being put in place to deal with and punish those who cause unnecessary alarm and despondency through social and other media, during this emergency. We all need to act responsibly.”
Government had already started taking steps to ensure that the pandemic would not lead to a recession, said the President.
“I continue to appeal to our employers to show compassion towards their workforce during these trying times. On its part, Government continues to explore more ways of supporting businesses and the economy and avert a recession,” the President said.
In a related development, it was announced last night that the inter-ministerial taskforce established this week to deal with the coronavirus outbreak will now be chaired by the Vice Presidency, with Defence and War Veterans Affairs Minister Oppah Muchinguri as deputy chairperson.
The taskforce was previously chaired by Health and Child Care Minister Dr Obadiah Moyo deputised by Local Government and Public Works Minister July Moyo.
The two remain members of the taskforce.
The changes were announced by the Secretary for Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services, Mr Nick Mangwana.
Other members of the taskforce include Ministers Monica Mutsvangwa (Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services); Kazembe Kazembe (Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage); Dr Sibusiso Moyo (Foreign Affairs and International Trade); Joel Biggie Matiza (Transport and Infrastructural Development); Mangaliso Ndlovu (Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry); Professor Mthuli Ncube (Finance and Economic Development); Professor Amon Murwira (Higher and Tertiary Education, Innovation and Science Technology Development).
Mr Mangwana said the President had also directed the unfreezing of all vacant posts in the Ministry of Health and Child Care, allowing this critical ministry to now recruit more staff swiftly.
- Starting Monday March 30, 2020 — total lockdown for 21 days.
- Exceptions: Critical movement of goods, key utilities ie power, water
- Security deployment to complement civilian efforts.
- Funerals exempted, but numbers should be less than 50.
- Refuelling motorists ordered not to leave vehicles.
- Food stalls allowed to operate, none food stalls closed.
- Public transport stopped except for ZUPCO and PSC buses.
- Toll-free hotline number is 2019.
- Testing and diagnostics, centralised at Provincial level.
- Social media alarmist to be punished.
- Business encouraged to support employees.