If you have been closely following the news you will know that there has been a recent surge in confirmed COVID-19 cases. As of 21 July 2020, the number of confirmed cases in Zimbabwe stood at 1820. Harare has the highest number of confirmed cases standing at 552, followed by Bulawayo at 546 and Matabeleland South at 227. The number of deaths is now at 26, recoveries are at 488. The surge in the number of new cases in just one day i.e. from the 20th to the 21st has raised some concerns. The number of new cases in just that one day was 107. This and other considerations could be why the President saw it expedient to enact new measures. On the 21st of July, President E.D. Mnangagwa announced a new set of regulations. I shall be sharing them in this article and as usual, I will also add some commentary. The President did cite that the nation is not well poised to deal with the pandemic given the limited and ailing health infrastructure in Zimbabwe.
The New COVID-19 Regulations
Non-Working Citizens To Stay At Home
The President indicated that all those from non-working sections will be required to stay home. Exceptions in terms of movement for non-working citizens will be for purposes of accessing food, water and health services.
Review Of Operating Hours
Operating hours of general businesses have been reviewed. All along they have been operating between 0800hrs and 1630hrs. From this point onwards they will be expected to operate from 0800hrs up to 1500hrs. Exceptions will be for Essential Services – these will continue to operate between 0800hrs and 1630hrs as before.
As has been the norm for a while now, inter-city travel remains banned. This also includes non-essential travel to rural areas; it is still disallowed. This means that public transport to these destinations remains banned.
Stipulations On Public Gatherings
Public gatherings for social, religious, and political purposes remain banned. Funeral gatherings remain curtailed in line with health requirements. This includes aspects of wearing masks, sanitization, maintaining social distancing, and other associated preventive or precautionary measures.
Deserting Quarantine Centres
There have been several cases of returnees escaping from quarantine centres. Any desertion from a quarantine centre by a returnee or infected person, resulting in the exposure of innocent lives to the virus will be considered a criminal act and will invite a robust response from the law and public health enforcement arm.
Stipulations On Food Markets
Food markets remain open and operational and must observe measures, rules and requirements meant to uphold public health. Suppliers to markets should be facilitated to reach the markets, including approval by security services. In light of this, it is only registered small and medium enterprises which have been allocated workspaces that will be allowed to operate. They will be required to comply with the parameters and protocols set by the World Health Organization.
Stipulations On Approved Public Transport
There are of course buses and vehicles that are approved to operate. All of these are required to ensure and enforce public health standards, including the screening of passengers before they board, and the disinfecting of all public vehicles or buses after every round trip.
Prosecution If Found Wanting
If you are found to be knowingly exposing, aiding, abetting, or infecting innocent persons whether by breaching conditions of isolation or by encouraging actions which undermine health measures which the Government has announced or undertaken you will be liable and severely punished accordingly.
Panic Reactions – Typical In Zimbabwe
What is happening presently is sadly a result of incompetence and procrastination. The handling of returnees has been quite porous. Efforts to have quarantine centres have been there but the quarantine centres are mostly inappropriate. There have been recurring reports of poor living conditions which have led to some preferring to desert. There have also been reports of poor security at these centres which have made it easy for people to escape. There was a recent case of an infected deserter who went back to his family and ended up infecting several of his family members (most of them young children).
I believe there could be several more scenarios like this – all because of poor handling of returnees and quarantine centres. Just because things have gotten out of hand stricter measures are being enacted. This is all too typical of the Zimbabwean government – nursing a developing problem and panic reactions later.
Selective Application Of The Law
One of the contributing factors to where Zimbabwe is right now is the selective application of the law. Recently in Masvingo, there was a week-long church conference for an apostolic sect. Well over 50 people were in attendance. The irony is that the wearing of masks, maintaining of social distancing and sanitization were not being adhered to at all. There was also a gathering such as this one in Mwenezi recently. How then can there be significant progress if the law is selectively applied like that? Roadblocks and checkpoints are no better, Again the irony is that if you can pay something underhand you can gain passage without adhering to any of the preventive or precautionary regulations. These are all impediments to any meaningful aversion of this COVID-19 pandemic. There is a need for objectivity in dealing with this pandemic. The pandemic is real and I urge all of you to be more diligent in keeping yourselves safe.