Zimbabwe has reintroduced a 12-hour dusk-to-dawn curfew to contain rising COVID19 cases and combat citizens’ disregard of lockdown regulations. The World Health Organization is calling on Zimbabweans to abide by the new regulations. Public health experts and informal traders have concerns about the measures.
Announcing the 12-hour curfew Saturday night on national television, Vice President Constantino Chiwenga said the government was concerned by a spike in coronavirus cases in Zimbabwe.
“We have seen a surge in COVID-19 cases and deaths, almost double in two months, from 8,374 on 1 November to 14,084 to date. In light of the recent surge in COVID-19 cases the following stiff lockdown measures are being put in place with immediate effect,” he said.
Besides the curfew, other measures include limiting the number of mourners at funerals to 30 people, while all other gatherings at weddings, churches, bars, bottle stores, gyms and restaurants are banned. Chiwenga - who doubles as Zimbabwe’s health minister – said a review of the new measures would be done in 30 days.
Participants in the informal sector of Zimbabwe’s economy say the new measures will not work. Sam Wadzai leads the activist group Vendors Initiative Social and Economic Transformation Zimbabwe.
“Clearly the government has not drawn lessons from the first lockdown where [in] March  they announced the existence of a cushioning fund which did not benefit the majority of informal traders. In the few cases where informal traders received these allowances, the value had long been eroded by inflation. Lockdown measures should be implemented along with the introduction of proper social protection schemes to protect the vulnerable of our society. Otherwise, it would be very, very difficult for the measures to be abided by.”
Dr. Pamela Magande, president of Zimbabwe College of Public Health Physicians, says lockdowns should be accompanied with equipping hospitals with medicines, PPEs and modern equipment.
“Hospitals are actually difficult to work in because there is nothing to work with. Everyone needs to be brought to the table because lockdown on its own we are just delaying the inevitable. We will emerge from the lockdown and we will have transmissions again and we will be back from where we started,” she said.
Dr. Alex Gasasira heads the World Health Organization in Zimbabwe. He says citizens have to embrace the new lockdown measures so that the southern African nation can contain escalating cases of coronavirus.
“If we, as individuals play our role at our individual levels in our homes, in our communities, this will complement the measures that the government has put in place and will enable the objective of reduced transmission being achieved in Zimbabwe in short time,” he said.
He said personal hygiene, wearing face masks and social distance were some of the measures that individual Zimbabweans can take if the new strict lockdown measures were to bear fruit.
Meanwhile, Zimbabwe police said it had arrested over 2,000 people over the New Year’s holiday weekend who flouted the country’s lockdown regulations imposed in March.