THOUSANDS of commuters were yesterday turned away from entering Harare’s central business district (CBD) as the Government tightened screws on the Covid-19 induced lockdown after a spike in the number of infections and apparent laxity in adherence to lockdown restrictions among the public.
With cases spiking due to an increased number of returnees from neighbouring countries, who are testing positive for Covid-19, the national Covid-19 coordinator in the Office of the President and Cabinet Dr Agnes Mahomva said while nothing had changed regarding current restrictions, law enforcers were also tightening their response after noticing laxities.
“There was a meeting, which noted that some sections of the society seemed to be relaxing as far as Covid-19 restrictions are concerned. It was as if the country had gone back to its old normal so I want to believe that this is part of intensifying enforcement of lockdown measures under Level 2.
“In terms of restrictions enunciated by President Mnangagwa, nothing has changed yet. We are still on Level 2,” said Dr Mahomva.
She however, said should current measures fail to prevent further transmission of the virus in the country, the Government would consider a review.
Zimbabwe presently has 206 cases of Covid-19 with 29 recoveries, 170 active cases and four deaths.
The majority of infections are returning citizens, who are mandatorily required to be quarantined for 21 days.
Of concern to Government is the increase in the number of people who are fleeing from quarantine facilities that are dotted around the country before completion of the 21-day period and testing for the global contagion.
Apart from that, there has been a disturbing laxity on the part of the public since scaling down of the lockdown to Level 2, which was extended indefinitely a fortnight ago by the President.
Consequently, combined security services, including the police and the military, were in full force along arterial roads leading into Harare’s CBD and turned away thousands of people who were trying to sneak into town for non-essential services.
Private vehicles and conventional buses were turned away from town, while in the city centre non-essential businesses were told to close shop.
As such police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi reminded the public that Zimbabwe was still under lockdown and therefore there was need to observe the strict Covid-19 guidelines.
“The ZRP (Zimbabwe Republic Police) urges members of the public to observe that the country is still under Level 2 national lockdown in order to manage the Covid-19 pandemic. Only essential services, businesses in the formal commercial and industrial sectors were exempted to operate during this period.
“The rest of the public should stay at home in order for the nation to curtail the increase in new Covid-19 cases being recorded. Please note that it is not everyone who should be in the CBD. Let us all be security and health-conscious in view of the increase of Covid-19 cases,” said Nyathi.
Last month, the President announced that Zimbabwe would continue under Level 2 lockdown for an indefinite period.
“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.
Since the beginning of the lockdown, 50 729 people have been arrested for flouting lockdown regulations, most of them for unnecessary movement or failure to wear a mask.
Those arrested have been slapped with fines of $500 and warned not to breach the regulations again.
Meanwhile, the African Union Centres for Disease Control released a continental guidance on easing lockdown measures to member states.
In its report released on Sunday, the AU CDC said Covid-19 was likely to be around for a long time, hence countries must start preparing for a new normal, arguing that sustained restrictions were detrimental to routine public health services, social and mental health as well as the economy.
“Given the likely duration of this epidemic, it is important to plan for easing measures in ways that allow the trajectory of the virus to be controlled,” reads part of the report.
The AU CDC said when easing restrictions, member states should do so gradually, starting with most affected areas and monitored for any possible influx in new cases.
In response to the first cases of Covid-19 reported across the continent, many countries, including Zimbabwe, implemented large-scale public health and social measures rapidly.
These measures were meant to give countries room to ramp up preparedness with the ultimate goal of reducing transmission.
While these quick actions bought time for many countries, many have started feeling the negative socio-economic impacts and countries are now exploring how best to ease these measures back while still managing the outbreak.