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by Staff reporter
28 Mar 2020 at 07:39hrs | Views
President Mnangagwa has with effect from Monday declared a total lockdown on the country to contain the spread of Covid-19 which has infected more than 500 000 people worldwide.

The pandemic, first reported in China in December 2019 has spread rapidly throughout the world, forcing many countries to enforce shutdowns in a bid to halt new infections. The virus thrives where people are crowded and already almost 25 000 deaths have been recorded while about 120 000 have successfully recovered.

Addressing journalists in Harare last night, the President said all citizens would be required to stay at home, except essential movements to seek health services, buy food, medicines, other essentials and critical services.

He said situational reports had shown that it was necessary to take drastic measures to protect citizens.

The strict measures, President Mnangagwa said, would be subject to periodical review as dictated by the situation. President Mnangagwa said the army would be deployed alongside civilian authorities to ensure strict compliance to the shutdown.

"Starting Monday 30 March 2020 and subject to further review, Zimbabwe will be under a total lockdown for a period of 21 days. Workers manning our essential services, including health services and outlets, as well as operation of key utilities like power and water are exempt from this directive," said President Mnangagwa.

"Only civil servants on duty, in line with decisions and directives of the public service commission, heads of ministries and the ad-hoc taskforce on Covid-19, will be allowed unrestricted movement."

The President warned those who would try to take advantage of the lockdown to profiteer that deterrent action would be taken and statutory instruments were being enacted to punish those who would use social media to spread alarm and despondency during the period.

Funerals, the President said, would be exempted from the directive but there should be no more than 50 mourners.

He said visits to clinics and hospitals would remain restricted to one visitor per patient per day while motorists seeking fuel would not be allowed to leave their vehicles.

"To ensure that hospitals are not overwhelmed and that other normal hospital services are not compromised, more separate treatment and isolation units and facilities will be established either on hospital sites or other identified centres, whether public or private as designated by the Ministry of Health and Childcare," said President Mnangagwa.

He said Covid-19 testing would be decentralised to provincial hubs countrywide to expedite testing and diagnostic services.

"In respect of open-air markets, only food-related markets will be allowed to operate during this period, even then, under the watch and direction of health personnel. Market stalls trading in non-food items or commodities will stand closed," said President Mnangagwa.

He said all public transport operations would be suspended.

"Only Zupco and public service commission buses will be exempt from this directive. Even then, all Zupco buses are required to observe and enforce social distance and disinfection guidelines in the course of offering their services," said President Mnangagwa.

He said Government and local authorities would ensure regular and reliable water supplies to all residential areas while municipalities were expected to ensure smooth refuse collection and sewer reticulation services in all areas.

The President said although infections in the country were low and all imported (seven infections and one death) experiences from other countries that have been ravaged by the virus where it spread by leaps and bounds in a short time, showed it was necessary to take decisive action as the approaching winter season would promote more infections. He said since the virus knew no colour, creed, tribe, race or region, it was important not to discriminate against or profile sections of communities as it would be counter-productive. President Mnangagwa said he had directed the Ministry of Health and Childcare and that of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services to work closely together to comprehensively inform communities about the pandemic because information was key in combating Covid-19.

"To that end, a toll-free hotline, 2-0-1-9 has been activated for this period and beyond," he said. The President said due to restricted international trade, the State would support industries and institutions of higher learning to produce most needs locally.

"This includes the manufacture of medicines, sanitisers, personal protective equipment and setting up of temporary isolation facilities for use during the emergency," he said while thanking business people and international partners for continued support in the campaign against the virus.

The President urged employers to be compassionate to workers during the period while Government explored ways to support business and the economy to prevent a recession. He advised citizens to maintain high standards of personal hygiene as advised by health experts and to act responsibly so that they protect themselves and their families.

Source - chronicle