Tough lockdown return out: Mnangagwa

PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa on Tuesday ruled out the possibility of re-imposing a second national Covid-19 lockdown during deliberations on the second coronavirus wave in cabinet.

ANDREW KUNAMBURA

Mnangagwa initially declared a nationwide lockdown on March 27as a way of trying to contain the spread of the pandemic, which has since been gradually eased.

Although in principle, the lockdown still remains in force, business has virtually returned to normalcy in the country, with many people on the streets and vast crowds at market places, without observing social distancing.

Face masks are often improperly donned, despite police often descending heavily on offenders.

The result has been a second wave of cases, with the country now reporting high daily infections, prompting health practitioners to lobby for another nationwide lockdown.

This was supported by a number of cabinet ministers.

Official sources said chairperson of the ad hoc Covid-19 taskforce, Defence minister Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri (pictured) presented a report in cabinet on new coronavirus infections, which painted grim picture for Zimbabwe.

“The chairperson (Muchinguri-Kashiri) had reported that the country was in grave danger and had expressed concern over the rapid increase in Covid-19 cases. For instance, she pointed out that the country had recorded 594 cases in the previous week, including in schools,” a source said.

“Some ministers actually proposed that there should be a return to the time when we had a stringent lockdown as countries in Europe are doing. South Africa has also indicated that as things stand, another tough lockdown would be necessary. But such proposals were shot down immediately by the President who indicated that what was needed was to ensure more vigilant enforcement of the existing control measures.”

“In fact, the meeting ended up approving requests from hospitality industry players like bars and restaurants to extend operating times by two more hours to allow them to do more business. So they will now be allowed to operate up to 8pm. There was also a proposal to reconsider the reopening of ports of entry especially considering how immigration and customs officials at the Beitbridge Border Post were infected over the same week, but this was also shot down,” the source added.

Instead, according to the source, Mnangagwa said law enforcement must do its job to enforce the existing lockdown measures.

“He was worried that people were relaxing and said the police must ensure that people comply with existing control measures,” an official said.

Zimbabwe has now recorded more than 10 129 coronavirus cases and 277 deaths.