Zimbabwe locks down central city amid COVID-19 variant threat

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The Zimbabwean government has decided to lock down the central city of Kwekwe for two weeks starting from Friday after the detection of a coronavirus variant first identified in India.

Various measures have been implemented in the city to curb the spread of the variant, including a curfew, closure of bars and a ban on all public gatherings, Vice President and Health Minister Constantino Chiwenga said in a statement Friday.

“Travelers through Kwekwe are strongly advised to spend as little time as possible in Kwekwe during the next two weeks,” he said.

The government identified the COVID-19 variant B.1.617.2 on Wednesday in samples taken from a Kwekwe man who died last week after contact with a relative who had returned from India and tested positive.

The B.1.617 variant, first found in India, has been classified as a “variant of concern” by the World Health Organization as it is more transmissible.

Chiwenga said the first COVID-19 case in the city was reported on May 9.

To date, Zimbabwe has recorded 38,635 COVID-19 cases, 36,427 recoveries and 1,582 deaths.

A total of 615,296 people have received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 252,100 people have been fully vaccinated.