Zimbabwe grapples with steady increase in COVID-19 infections

HARARE, ZIMBABWE - DECEMBER 01: People wait on a bench waiting to be vaccinated at Parirenyatwa group of hospitals on December 01, 2021 in Harare, Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe is among the southern African countries facing travel bans after the Omicron Covid-19 variant was first reported in neighboring South Africa. Its president Emmerson Mnangagwa said all returning residents to undergo PCR testing and quarantine at their own cost even with negative PCR test whilst the vice president urged people not to panic, and said the country's vaccination program - which has the goal of inoculating 60% of Zimbabweans by year's end - would prepare it for another wave of infections. Zimbabwe has fully inoculated around 2.8 million people since February, about 20% of its population. (Photo by Tafadzwa Ufumeli/Getty Images)
People wait on a bench waiting to be vaccinated at Parirenyatwa group of hospitals on December 01, 2021 in Harare, Zimbabwe. /Getty Images

COVID-19 infections have been on a steady rise in Zimbabwe over the past 10 days — from a low of 27 on November 22 to a high of 712 on December 1, figures issued by the Ministry of Health and Child Care show.

During the same period, the seven-day rolling average for new infections rose from 29 to 227, amid fears that a fourth wave of the pandemic could soon hit the country unless citizens take extra care to curb the spread of the pandemic, which has killed 4,707 people from 135,337 infections as of December 1.

The recovery rate remains high though, with 128,784 cases having been cleared.

Learning institutions have been hard hit, with 316 students and teachers having been infected during the same period. At least three schools in Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe, have closed after some members of their communities were infected.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Tuesday announced enhanced measures to curb the spread of the pandemic, especially in view of the new variant Omicron, which is feared to be more potent than the Delta variant which has been predominant in the country.

The new measures have hit the Diaspora community hard, with many saying that they may not return home for the festive season.

According to the new measures, returning residents and visitors should quarantine for 10 days at their own cost in centers designated by the government after undergoing PCR tests, even if they test negative. The PCR tests are also at their own cost.

COVID-19 negative certificates obtained from outside the borders are no longer relevant.

Those who are found positive will be taken to isolation centers.

Returning residents or visitors found to be negative for COVID-19 may, however, self-quarantine at any premises cleared for the purpose in advance by an enforcement officer acting on the instructions of the Ministry of Health and Child Care.

Mnangagwa also extended the curfew, which used to start at 10 p.m. and end at 5:30 a.m., now begins at 9 p.m. and ends at 6 a.m.

Bars and nightclubs are prohibited from selling alcohol to those who are not fully vaccinated while drinking at bottle shops remains banned.