Zimbabwe to ease COVID-19 restrictions, but lockdown to stay for now

Zimbabwe’s capital city, Harare. Businesses such as manufacturers, supermarkets and banks will be allowed to operate between 8 a.m. and 4.30 p.m. /VCG Image

Zimbabwe will maintain its COVID-19 lockdown but will allow businesses to operate for longer, President Emmerson Mnangagwa said on Saturday.

The Southern African nation has recorded 42 cases and our COVID-19 related deaths, according to data from the Johns Hopkins University.

The Zimbabwean government imposed a lockdown on March 30, but has gradually been easing the restrictions as it aims to revive its troubled economy.

Economic fallout from the pandemic will exacerbate climate-induced shocks and monetary woes afflicting an economy battling shortages of foreign exchange, food electricity and medicines.

“Zimbabwe will… continue on the level two lockdown for an indefinite period. The country needs to ease out of the lockdown in a strategic and gradual manner,” Mnangagwa said in a live broadcast.

The president said informal street markets, where millions of Zimbabweans eke a leaving selling everything from used clothes to vegetables, will remain shut while the government consults health specialists on how to reopen them safely.

Businesses such as manufacturers, supermarkets and banks, which have been allowed to continue operating, will now be able to work between 8 a.m. and 4.30 p.m. compared with the six-hour day imposed previously.

Shared taxis will remain banned, forcing commuters to use buses operated by the state.

President Mnangagwa said the hundreds of Zimbabwean migrants returning home every week, mainly from South Africa and Botswana, will have to undergo a 21-day quarantine in school and college buildings set aside for the purpose.

The president said only students writing final examinations this year would be allowed to resume classes but did not say when. The government is still working on plans of phased re-opening of schools.