Police are intensifying enforcement of Covid-19 lockdown regulations countrywide as local infections continue to spike, stressing the need for those who neither work in essential nor exempted services to restrict movement to buying food, getting water and medical reasons.
Police are also ensuring that those outside essential services obey the 6pm-6am curfew, and that those in non-essential, but exempted businesses limit working hours to 8am to 3pm, giving staff time to get home before the curfew.
Under the regulations, a wide swathe of services and businesses have been designated as essential or as exempted, allowing their staff to travel to and from work.
Essential services can operate during curfew hours and outside the 8am to 3pm operating times; these include security services, media, health services, food processing and distribution, and for the purposes of the curfew and working hour regulations, the mining sector and tobacco auction floors.
Almost all industrial and commercial concerns in the formal sector, but outside the essential services have now been exempted from the total lockdown and can operate between 8am and 3pm.
To this group have been added, for the purposes of the curfew and the operating times, bits of the essential sector, such as the retail end of the food sector, restaurants, take-aways, banks and even the courts.
Those in exempted and essential services usually have to produce letters at police check points stating that they are permitted to work or open their businesses during the lockdown. While this is not a legal requirement the police normally pass holders of such letters they consider genuine through checkpoints quite quickly.
This was seen yesterday at Harare road blocks with hundreds of motorists being turned back home after failing to satisfy the police that they were in the exempted or essential groups and could go into the city centre.
Most of the roads leading into the city centre from suburbs and satellite towns were heavily congested in the morning and it took in some cases up to two hours to get into town for people coming from as far as Chitungwiza.
At roadblocks, people with suspicious exemption letters were turned back with some being strongly warned to stay at home.
Police are also patrolling possible by-pass routes. At roadblocks those in public transport, the Zupco buses, often are required to disembark and satisfy the police officer checking them as they re-board that they are in the essential or exempted groups. Generally a genuine employer’s letter allows swift re-boarding.
But there are other reasons for travel. One passenger from a Zupco bus who was denied entry into Harare city centre from Chitungwiza could not hide his anger to the police.
“I wanted to buy groceries in downtown where prices are cheaper compared to some shops in Chitungwiza. Yes, I do not have an exemption letter, but what I wanted to do in town is also essential.”
Another passenger, urged the authorities to allow Zupco personnel not to ferry passengers who do not possess any exemption letter.
“My suggestion is that authorities should make sure that upon boarding a Zupco bus, one should produce an exemption letter, this will serve us all time at police checkpoints.”
There was notable decrease in both vehicular and pedestrian volume in the CBD for the better part of the day. By 3pm, all of the shops in city centre and suburban centres had closed, in line with the regulations that now declare all shops, except pharmacies, must close at 3pm regardless of whether they are in an essential or exempted sector.
However, long queues could be seen in city terminuses as workers released soon after the closing times still have to wait for Zupco buses to ferry them home.
In Midlands province, majority of businesses in Gweru and Kwekwe yesterday closed shop earlier, saying they feared there could be illegal protests today. Security check points into Gweru and Kwekwe city centres were also tight with motorists being turned away.
In Mutare, the usual roadblocks were supplemented by police mobile patrols around the city centre.
At around 3pm mobile police patrols were rounding up those who were still roaming around town, especially those without exemption letters. By 5pm, the city centre was deserted with only a few vehicles and individuals seen moving swiftly as they made their way out of the city centre.
In Marondera, it was the same as slow movement of traffic as people were checked. There was heavy presence of security personnel at all Government buildings, banks and supermarkets. In high density suburbs soldiers made some routine check ups
In Chinhoyi, the same rules were followed, but mobile patrols were checking on adherence to regulations and arresting those not wearing masks. Mashonaland West provincial police spokesperson, Assistant Inspector Ian Kohwera said police had arrested a number of lockdown regulations violators.
In Bindura, Mashonaland Central Province, security services mounted roadblocks on all roads leading into town and those not exempted to offer essential services were told to go back home.