The Zimbabwean government has also followed suit and declared a national state of disaster over the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak and announced a raft of preventative measures to curtail its spread.
Addressing the nation Tuesday afternoon after cabinet met earlier, President Emmerson Mnangagwa, delivered 10 key points the country would implement to prevent the virus.
Mnangagwa indicated his government was under “no illusion” and fully aware that COVID-19 could also strike the country, the same way it had done in others.
“We have to take preventive steps and all precautions that are necessary. We have to be ready with remedial interventions in case of actual outbreaks. Indeed we need to have a national response plan for containing the pandemic once it reaches us,” the president said.
So far, Zimbabwe has no confirmed case of the pandemic, save for several suspected cases.
The president announced the government has decided to postpone and cancel public events, gatherings and activities such as the 40th national independence celebrations and the 2020 Zimbabwe International Trade Fair (ZITF) that were slated for next April.
“All these activities will resume, as soon as the government is satisfied the country is no longer at risk,” said the president.
“Resources originally earmarked for these activities will now be redirected towards strengthening our defenses towards the virus and drought mitigation.”
Gatherings of more than 100 people, be that of worship, weddings are also suspended for the next 60 days, after which the suspension would be reviewed.
Schools will remain open until the term closes, which is two weeks from now, “until something drastic happens,” Mnangagwa said.
The president noted the school opening dates would be announced after taking into account the realities on the ground but he did not say anything about universities and colleges.
He also urged people to heighten their vigilance and those individuals with clinical symptoms to “come forward for tests and attention, including embarking on voluntary social distancing and submitting to other control measures deemed necessary.”
With immediate effect, Mnangagwa said government premises should be equipped with screening procedures and also encouraged businesses to do the same.
“Personal hygiene and use of alcohol based sanitisers must be encouraged, luckily we have capacity to manufacture these locally,” Mnangagwa said.
The government also announced that it has curtailed unnecessary travel outside the country, especially to countries affected by the virus and discouraged travellers from high risk countries to come into Zimbabwe for the next 30 days starting from March 20, 2020.
“Similarly government is working with WHO guidelines in handling and treating guests from the countries as they come into our country to stay with us we continue to review this as necessary and strictly on the basis of available evidence and information. Our response will neither be arbitrary nor reckless to reduce the likelihood of infections and spread of corona virus
“Equally Zimbabweans are discouraged from travelling to, through and from high risk countries during the same period, non-essential travel must be avoided and discouraged by all of us,” Mnangagwa said.
The president said all main entry points into the country will remain operational, save for small border crossings that would stand closed down from now until further notice.
“Screening, testing and other WHO recommended measures will be reinforced vigorously at these borders,” he said.
Mnangagwa added a national taskforce that would disseminate information and spread awareness would be constituted, led by the Ministry of Health and Child Care, which would provide weekly reports to the cabinet.
“Should the situation worsen, government will not hesitate to take further drastic actions and the monthly clean up exercises must now incorporate heightened awareness on the virus including measures recommended by experts,” he said.
The president said the country would continue mobilising resources as “this pandemic did not give notice it was coming,” which was why the government was diverting funds from other economic activities to bolster capacity.
“With each passing day, we are able to increase capacity. We are thankful to our partners who have supported us and we believe we will continue receiving assistance. Now is time to show unity and purpose in the nation. We have reach out to one another in fighting this deadly pandemic, which knows no political party, no colour, creed or nationality, either we unite to fight it or be forced in shared grief,” Mnangagwa appealed.