Zimbabwe has announced stricter coronavirus measures along its northern border with Zambia after a spike in confirmed infections. The Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights says the strict regulations should be followed by efforts to secure more vaccines once the situation is contained.
Reading a statement from President Emmerson Mnangagwa on national television Thursday night, Vice President Constantino Chiwenga said Zimbabwe had noticed a sharp spike in cases of COVID-19 in Zambia and in the areas near its northern neighbor.
"I therefore direct that the following measures be implemented in order to control the spread of COVID-19 in these areas: Curfew from 1800 hours to 0600 hours," Chiwenga said. "Entry or exit into these districts is prohibited except for essential services. Public transport to carry half their carrying capacity to enable physical distancing. Every public transport vehicle be disinfected after every trip.”
Chiwenga — who doubles as Zimbabwe’s health minister — said all restrictions imposed throughout Zimbabwe over the past weekend such as bans on gatherings except for funerals would also apply to the three districts of Makonde, Hurungwe and Kariba.
Only 30 people would be allowed at funerals, according to the restrictions he announced over the weekend.
There was no word on when the measures may be lifted.
Speaking via messaging app, Dr. Norman Matara, from the Zimbabwe Association for Doctors for Human Rights, said the localized lockdowns have worked in countries like U.S., Britain, Italy and Germany.
He urged tight enforcement by the government to ensure success.
“Of course we have seen a decrease in terms of vaccinations, but when we see community spread of infections, what we really [need] to focus on is to implement things like lockdowns, increase testing capacity, quickly identify positive cases," Matara said. "We isolate them and we do contact-tracing such that we minimize the number of cases we are recording every day. And once the cases go down, we can go on preaching the gospel of vaccinations.”
Zimbabwe’s vaccination effort against the global pandemic has recently been hit by shortages of shots.
But officials say the country still has some stocks of the 1.7 million COVID-19 vaccines it has received from China, Russia and India since February.
So far, nearly 700,000 Zimbabweans have received their first shots, and close to 427,000 have received their second.
Zimbabwe has just under 41,000 confirmed coronavirus infections and 1,647 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University, which tracks the global outbreak.