President Emmerson Mnangagwa has with immediate effect extended the lockdown period by a further 14 days while also announcing that the mining sector, a key economic contrbutor, will be allowed to upscale operations.
To date the country has 25 confirmed cases including three deaths and two recoveries.
Among the COVID-19 patients include a four year child, a 10 year old and a 16 year old, which President Mnangagwa expressed worry over.
The current lockdown period which started March 30, 2020 and was due to expire midnight on Sunday.But with the extension it will last until May 3, 2020.
Mnangagwa lamented Zimbabwe has witnessed a spike in infections from single digits to the current 25 and warned if infections reached the ‘deadly’ mark of 100 cases, the country would experience a grim multiplier effect.
“Apart from this growing number of infections, we are deeply worried that the virus is beginning to attack our children, with more and more cases coming from local transmissions,” he said in a televised address on Sunday.
“Guided by these realities, and to allow ourselves greater leeway to prepare for worse times which are likely ahead, Government has decided to extend with immediate effect the National Lockdown by a further 14 days. That means the National Lockdown which would have expired at midnight stands extended by another two weeks up to 3rd May, 2020.”
In explaining the decision to extend the lockdown, he admitted that it was not a solution to fighting the coronavirus but ‘only’ a holding operation as the authorities sought real, durable solutions.
“Let me emphasise the National Lockdown cannot, in itself, be the strategy. Nor can it last forever. Our National Strategy must be founded on, firstly, levelling the pandemic by arresting its spread in the immediate,” the president said.
Mnangagwa predicted that more cases would be recorded as Zimbabweans who were in the diaspora, including from countries heavily affected by the COVID-19 pandemic were returning back home.
“This presents an unavoidable, but growing threat to our Nation, as we must accommodate all our returning citizens,” he said.
He also admitted the country had not yet met the conditions for lifting the lockdown as pronounced by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
“Key among these conditions is the need to have in place health systems that are capable to test, isolate, treat and trace every contact. The need to lift the lockdown or restrictions is when the transmission of the virus is fairly under control.
“As I have also already indicated, worldwide cases of infections continue to gallop, with WHO counselling against relaxing lockdowns currently adopted by almost all countries of the world,” Mnangagwa said.
Meanwhile he noted the need to keep the economy functioning and allowed the mining sector to resume or scale up operations but within parameters set by WHO regarding social distancing and other public health safety measures.
The mining sector generates over 60 percent of Zimbabwe’s export earnings.
“I have now directed the Ministries of Health and Child Care, and that of Mines and Mining Development to work closely to make sure the workforce in the mining sector is immediately screened and tested ahead of resumed operations. Further, to the extent possible I have directed that workers in the mining sector remain within the precincts of their accommodation at workplaces for the duration of the lockdown,” he said.
For the manufacturing sector, he noted that limited operations resume in the national interest, but it must also be mindful of the public health safeguards.
“Inspectors will be visiting all operations to make sure these safeguards are strictly adhered to. This reprieve covers our manufacturers in our informal sector and SMEs as well, who have to use these two weeks to rebuild their capacities and stocks.
“The responsible Ministry is also directed to work closely with the Health authorities to ensure there is order and safety in that sector so critical to livelihoods. As Government, we continue to explore ways of mitigating the impact of the lockdown on all businesses, big and small, so our Economy recovers more rapidly, after the pandemic,” he said.