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Zimbabwe Bans Almost All Gatherings Amid Rise in COVID-19 Cases

FILE: An health care worker administers a jab containing Pfizer vaccine on a caregiver. (Photo by Michele Spatari / AFP)

Zimbabwe has banned almost all gatherings and ordered citizens to follow strict COVID-19 regulations, which will be implemented on Monday, following a surge in coronavirus cases in the last seven days in the country.

In a statement today posted on the Ministry of Health’s Facebook page, Vice President Constantino Chiwenga, who is also the health minister, said there will be strict enforcement of the latest COVID-19 regulations.

“The last 7 seven days have seen 596 new cases and 26 deaths as compared to the same period in May 2021 where we had 132 new cases and 6 deaths. This is a more than 4-fold increase in new cases and deaths. Sadly, it has been noted that there has been a general complacency in adhering to the preventative measures both in the communities and work places. We are also witnessing a sharp increase in cases and deaths globally and in the SADC (Southern African Development Community) region

“In order to curb this surge in cases and deaths in Zimbabwe and prevent a potential 3rd wave, the following measures will be implemented effective Monday 14 June 2021 … There will be stricter enforcement of the following preventive measures - mandatory wearing of masks in public places, maintaining social and physical distancing, washing or sanitising your hands frequently.”

The government is expected to strengthen testing and contact tracing as well as quarantining contacts and isolating confirmed cases.

Chiwenga said, “Regarding public transport, the operators are to adhere to recommended passenger numbers. They should ensure that all passengers are wearing their face masks properly. On boarding they must have their temperature checked and their hands sanitized. Public transport operators shall disinfect their vehicles after every trip.”

He said all gatherings, except funerals, have been banned. “These gatherings include but are not limited to weddings, church gatherings, music festivals and sports activities. Funerals shall be limited to 30 people. All Covid 19 funerals will be supervised by health personnel.”

Chiwenga noted that all workshops and meetings are to be held virtually. “In addition all offices, both government and private, are to decongest by 50% (except for offices connected with essential services).”

He said retail businesses and shops are expected to operate from 08:00 hours to 18:00 hours.

“It is expected that the operators ensure that there is strict adherence to preventive measures such as proper wearing of face masks, sanitizing and temperature checks of clients. They should also ensure that they limit the number of clients in their shops to maintain physical distancing.”

According to Chiwenga, beer halls and night clubs will remain closed while bottle stores will operate from 10:00-16:00 hours.

“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 licenses. 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.”

The government has also ordered market placed such as Mbare, Renkin, Mupedzanhamo, Sakubva, Machipisa and others, to close operations at 18:00 hours.

“The operators shall ensure strict adherence to preventive measures such as proper wearing of face masks, sanitizing, social distancing and temperature checks of their clients. Non-compliance will result in closure of that market. Our health inspectors and other law enforcement agents will move around and monitor compliance to these measures. Failure to adhere to these measures will result in withdrawal of the business licenses.”

At all ports of entry , he said, there shall be strict enforcement of the 48-hour old PCR negative certificate requirement and mandatory testing of all travelers 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.”

Chiwenga said with regards to management of local hot spots, there will be daily national updates of hot spots as part of the daily Covid 19 situational report, the public is being advised not to travel to these hot spots areas, there will be increased testing and contact tracing within the hot spot areas and vaccinations and health education will be intensified in the hot spots areas.

“If the above measures fail to control the hot spot areas, targeted lockdowns will be effected in those areas.”