HARARE: The Zimbabwe government has directed that vegetable markets in the country should open for six days with mandatory closure on the seventh day to allow for disinfection in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The move came as locally transmitted COVID-19 cases have spiked in the country, with Harare’s Mbare vegetable market now designated as one of the coronavirus hot spots, after nine percent of people tested at the market this week tested positive.
Addressing a post-cabinet media briefing on Wednesday, Women Affairs, Community, Small and Medium Enterprises Minister Sithembiso Nyoni said the precautionary measures were meant to curb the further spread of the deadly disease at food markets.
“As a precautionary measure to curb the transmission of COVID-19 at food markets, which are characterized by crowding, poor sanitization and lack of reticulated water, Cabinet resolved as follows; that the restructuring of the vegetable markets bays in line with COVID-19 protocols be done in all vegetable markets; that markets operate a six-day-cycle with mandatory closure for disinfection on the seventh day,” the minister said.
Zimbabwe’s COVID-19 cases have rapidly increased over the past few weeks, and now stand at 4,221 including 81 deaths as at Tuesday.
Nyoni said all vendors at stalls should exercise extreme precautions such as use of sanitizers and consistent hand-washing with soap and running water.
She said a targeted information education campaign should be conducted to promote a new-normal among traders and customers at these markets.
“Government will also come up with measures to be enforced in other places where people converge in large numbers,” she said.
In light of increasing cases, the Cabinet also directed that all hospitals should admit patients without the requirement of a prior COVID-19 test result and proceed to do a PCR test on admission.
This was after reports had emerged that some hospitals were refusing to admit patients without COVID-19 tests results.
“To that end, the Ministry of Health and Child Care has already directed all public and private health institutions to establish Patient-Under-Investigation zones to ensure that no patients are turned away,” she said.
The country has done a total of 140,421 COVID-19 tests to date, with government saying it had increased the number of tests in light of the spike in COVID-19 cases.
The number of tests done per week had doubled, with the average tests per day standing at 1,130 compared to 559 at the end of July.