Mukudzei Chingwere Herald Reporter
Schools may only be able to reopen in three weeks at the earliest, depending on progress in limiting Covid-19 infection, with Acting President Constantino Chiwenga yesterday extending the Level Two lockdown by a further two weeks.
The Acting President, however, held out hope when he said schools would have at least one week after the present extension to get ready for reopening.
The school term, which had been set to open this week, was deferred two weeks ago when it became obvious that the fast falling infection rates had suddenly hit a plateau at a very unsafe level.
That plateau of infection continued until late last week, and while average rates have been falling since then, the fall is slow and average daily new cases are still almost 20 times higher as what were seen between the third and fourth waves when schools were able to remain open.
In a statement yesterday, Acting President Chiwenga confirmed the extension of the Level Two Covid-19 national lockdown by a further two weeks.
Besides schools remaining closed, this maintains the 7pm business closing times and the 9pm curfew, along with the masking, social distancing and other public health measures.
While schools remain closed and since no one knows how fast the fourth wave will recede, Acting President Chiwenga was unable to give an opening date. But he did establish a warning period for any reopening.
“Schools (will) be given at least one week after the next two-week lockdown extension, to put preventive public health measures in place before the commencement of the general school calendar depending on the prevailing Covid-19 situation at that time,” said the Acting President who is also the Minister of Health and Child Care.
He implored teachers and eligible learners to take advantage of the national vaccination programme and get vaccinated before the resumption of face-to-face classes.
As with other civil servants, teachers in the public service are now vaccinated and the vaccination rates were high for the senior forms late last year when 16 and 17-year-olds were included in the national programme.
But since then a lot will have moved from lower forms into the vaccination forms, and now need their jabs.
“Teachers and students will be required to wear face masks while in class. All eligible teachers and students are encouraged to be vaccinated for Covid-19 before the opening of schools. Enforcement officers are encouraged to conduct regular assessments of compliance in learning institutions at least on a weekly basis,” said VP Chiwenga.
“The provincial taskforce teams are exhorted to strengthen their efforts of mobilising all those eligible to get vaccinated,” he said.
The Acting President encouraged the public to wear face masks, sanitise, wash hands with soap and avoid crowds and gatherings, especially when not wearing face masks while having meals and drinks.
Zimbabwe avoided a spike in infections during the festive season contrasted to the previous year which was attributed partly to irresponsible behaviour.
During the just-ended festive season, the Government praised Zimbabweans for their resilience in the face of Covid-19, urging everyone to remain vigilant and continue following expert advice to register total victory against the global pandemic.
Last year, the Government succeeded in putting in place adequate measures informed by World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines, to ensure schools reopen safely.
This minimised the effects of the pandemic on people and this week, the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education said it was seized with putting in place measures for a safe resumption of classes.