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Confusion over Zimbabwe lockdown rules

by Staff reporter
03 May 2020 at 09:35hrs | Views
POOR communication by the government has caused confusion over the next phase of the countrywide lockdown to control the spread of the coronavirus that kicks in tomorrow with conflicting statements on the use of clearance letters.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Friday extended the lockdown that began on March 30 by two more weeks, but said big businesses will reopen under supervision.
Informal markets will remain closed and the majority of transport operators are still barred from operating.

Explaining the measures announced by Mnangagwa, the government spokesperson Nick Mangwana initially said exemption letters for movement of people were no longer needed.

When he was asked to elaborate, Mangwana said "from Monday you no longer need to be carrying an exemption letter to go into town or be in public, but you need to put on a mask."

After he was put to task, he said "administratively authorities policing the measures may ask for evidence of your right to be up and about or be going where you are going, that can be anything from death certificates for a funeral to exemption letters."

Mangwana yesterday insisted that exemption letters were no longer necessary.

"Exemption letters work when a few are exempted from going to work," he told The Standard in an interview.

"But as we move to level two, the majority will be going to work. Banks will be open, all industry will be open, so writing letters would be a mammoth task.

"What will be there is an administrative issue of police manning roadblocks to satisfy themselves with whether one has to be where they say they are supposed to be."

Japhet Moyo, the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) secretary-general, feared that there would be chaos tomorrow as government had not properly communicated the new measures.

"What we are missing at the moment are the details, do we have or has anyone put in place mechanism to supervise resumption of business?" Moyo asked.

"Would the security checkpoints be friendly to allow workers passage to work, because last weeks, it was a nightmare for many workers?

"Police had their own understanding of the relaxation and people with special permit letters found themselves unable to report to work."

The ZCTU said it would also be dangerous for workers to report for work tomorrow without proper screening.

"Workers were not screened," Moyo said.

"There were no inspections and to some employers, it became business as usual.

"No social distancing at work, no masks, just nothing different and that might be dangerous."

MDC leader Nelson Chamisa said the new measures were introduced without any consultation, hence the confusion.

"It was ill thought out, lacked national consensus and did not stand on solid ground," Chamisa said in an interview.

"Any decisions of that magnitude should have been on solid ground, guided by science and methodology.

"It should have been a product of national consensus, after wide consultations with business, workers, the informal sectors and the alternative like us."

Chamisa said the first phases of the lockdown should have been used to improve surveillance for the disease with intensified testing.

He said at the moment the government had no credible data to make sound decisions on efforts to control the spread of the highly infectious disease.

"We should have used the first 21 days for mass testing, isolation and preparing for a time when we would need to reopen, but after close to two months we have arrested more people, than we have tested," he said.

"We are just relaxing and extending the lockdown without any plan in place.

"One can't just say stay in Mbare or Mabvuku without a plan on how these people will survive, where they will get food and how workers will be cushioned."

Confederation of Zimbabwe Retailers Association president Denford Mutashu said the country should remain on high alert despite the relaxation of the lockdown.

"The country should remain on high alert and all companies opening should comply with government and World Health Organisation guidelines," he said.

"It is a contentious balance between the health of the nation and the economy.

"We are between a hard place and a rock and it remains a catch 22 situations.

Israel Murefu, the Employers' Confederation of Zimbabwe president, said they were happy with the relaxed conditions of the lockdown, but needed more clarity on some of Mnangagwa's pronouncements.

"The partial lockdown is a positive development for both business and the economy as it will save many jobs and support spending by consumers as they will have some income," Murefu said.

"We also welcome the $18 billion stimulus package and would want government to be open about the funding and distribution of the funds to borrowers.

"A clear criteria and procedure for accessing the funds is necessary to avoid what may be viewed as favouritism or unfairness.

"So we keenly await the details so that businesses can start now to access the funds for working capital and generally coming back to life."

As of Friday, Zimbabwe had recorded 34 Covid-19 cases with four deaths and five recoveries.

Source - The Standard