Harare — Zimbabwe’s government on Saturday slashed working hours for business and ordered companies to send 50% of their staff to work from home as part of new measures to curb the spread of Covid-19.
Last week alone, the country recorded about 700 new Covid-19 infections and 68 deaths, prompting authorities to take action.
With the country’s public hospitals ailing, observers say the actual number of infections and deaths from the coronavirus is much higher than the official statistics as most patients prefer to get treatment at home.
Announcing the new lockdown measures on Saturday, vice-president Constantino Chiwenga, who also doubles up as health minister, said there had been a fourfold increase in new cases and deaths in the past week, compared to the week before.
Chiwenga said retail businesses and shops’ operating hours will be from 8am to 6pm with operators expected to ensure “strict adherence to preventive measures such as proper wearing of face masks, sanitising and temperature checks of clients”.
“They should also ensure that they limit the number of clients in their shops to maintain physical distancing. Beer halls and night clubs will remain closed whilst bottle stores will operate from 10am-4pm.
“Operators should ensure that there is no drinking in and around their premises. Failure to adhere to these measures will result in withdrawal of business licences.
“Hotel and lodge bars and restaurants are open to their residents up to 22.00 hours. All other restaurants and fast foods outlets will serve takeaways only.”
Chiwenga said the new measures will see strict monitoring of travellers.
“At all ports of entry there shall be strict enforcement of the 48- hour-old PCR [polymerase chain reaction] negative certificate requirement and mandatory testing of all travellers from hot spots at their expense regardless of their negative PCR certificates. There shall be quarantining of those coming from hot spots in designated quarantine centres at their own expense. Those who present with fake Covid-19 negative certificates shall be arrested and prosecuted,” he said.
Chiwenga also announced the banning of all public gatherings except funerals, which will be limited to 30 people.
The ban on gatherings also includes workshops, with the government saying such meetings should be conducted virtually.
Law enforcement agents will be deployed to monitor compliance with these new measures, which means police and soldiers will again be heavily deployed on the country’s highways and in residential suburbs.
In a state of the nation address on Saturday, President Emmerson Mnangagwa said Zimbabwe had been badly affected by Covid-19, but its citizens had remained resilient.
“The Covid-19 pandemic hit the world like an atomic bomb and the collateral damage has been enormous. While millions were killed, tens of millions have lost their livelihoods, business and jobs. Zimbabwe has not been spared. But Zimbabweans have faced this crisis with typical courage,” he said.
Three Zimbabwean towns, Kariba, Kwekwe and Karoi, are under total lockdown after a surge in Covid-19 cases.
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