Zimbabwe bans intercity travel in new lockdown restrictions

A man wears a mask as he walks past closed shops during a lockdown aimed at limiting the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Harare, Zimbabwe Jan 28, 2021. (Photo: Agencies)

President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Tuesday announced stricter lockdown measures, which instantly prohibited all intercity travel, slashed the working hours for business t0 8 am to 3 pm and instituted a dusk-to-dawn curfew.

The new lockdown measures are in response to a 213 percent increase in the number of new novel coronavirus infections registered from the previous week's number of 1,239 cases.

"Industry needs to decongest workplaces to 40 percent of manned levels, with the rest of the workers working from home. Commercial transport to is to remain operational, to allow the economy to continue to run," Mnangagwa announced.

He added that a COVID-19 vaccination blitz will be rolled out in border towns and cities, tobacco auction floors, grain and cotton market depots, major construction sites, people's markets and all hotspots.

Zimbabwe received 500 000 doses of Sinopharm vaccines from China on Saturday.

Monica Mutsvangwa, Information, Publicity and Broadcasting minister, said at a post-cabinet press briefing on Tuesday that Zimbabwe has procured 2 million doses of Sinovac vaccines that will arrive in the country by end of this week, while another 1.5 million doses are expected in mid-July. Two further batches of 1.5 million doses of vaccines each are expected in August and September.

She said government had given frontline workers, who were prioritised in the country's vaccination program, until July 14 to get vaccinated, after which those not vaccinated will have their COVID-19 insurance payouts forfeited. An estimated 20 percent of frontline workers are still to be vaccinated.

Public health practitioner Grant Murevanhema said vaccines, including Sinopharm's, were effective in reducing COVID-19 disease severity and mortality.

"Government must expedite the process of vaccine acquisition and delivery and ensure equitable distribution, including to marginalised areas, to ensure all eligible and willing citizens have access to vaccines. The safety of vaccines in use has been largely proven," he said on Twitter on Wednesday.

In introducing stricter lockdown measures, Zimbabwe joined countries, including Rwanda, South Africa and Uganda, that have taken tougher measures amid rising infections.