PRESIDENT: Lockdown extended to May; mining sector resumes operations

By The Herald

The Covid-19 national lockdown has been extended by another 14 days to May 3, but with Government taking a major step to restart the economy by allowing the mining and manufacturing sectors to reopen under rules set by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and public health authorities.

Zimbabwe has now recorded 25 Covid-19 confirmed cases and three deaths from 2 851 tests.

Announcing both the extension and the reopening of two major production sectors yesterday, President Mnangagwa said Zimbabwe was yet to meet the conditions for lifting a lockdown announced by the WHO, which in any case wants all countries to preserve lockdowns at present.

In his address at State House yesterday, the President acknowledged that the decision to extend the lockdown was hard to make, but was necessary under the present circumstances.

He appealed to the nation to cooperate as fully as it had done for the initial 21 days that ended yesterday.

“Government has reviewed the situation obtaining in the country, around us in the region and worldwide. As I have already indicated, incidences of infection in our country to date have risen to 25. This figure comprises both imported and local transmissions, with the trend clearly showing that more and more we are now dealing with in-country transmissions. We are also facing a new situation where more and more of our citizens are coming back home, including from countries heavily affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. This presents an unavoidable, but growing threat to our nation, as we must accommodate all our returning citizens,” he said.

The country, the President said, was yet to meet the conditions for lifting the lockdown that were recently announced by WHO and key among these conditions was the need to have in place health systems that were capable to test, isolate, treat and trace every contact.

The need to lift the lockdown, he added, was when the transmission of the virus was fairly under control.

“I have now directed the Ministries of Health and Child Care, and that of Mines and Mining Development to work closely to ensure the workforce in the mining sector is immediately screened and tested ahead of resumed operations.

“Further, to the extent possible, I have directed that workers in the mining sector remain within the precincts of their accommodation at workplaces for the duration of the lockdown,” he said.

With respect to the manufacturing sector, the President said he had directed that limited operations resume in the national interest. However, mindful of the public health safeguards, inspectors would be visiting all operations to ensure the safeguards were being strictly adhered to.

“This reprieve covers our manufacturers in our informal sector and SMEs as well, who have to use these two weeks to rebuild their capacities and stocks. The responsible ministry is also directed to work closely with the health authorities to ensure there is order and safety in that sector, so critical to livelihoods,” said the President.

He added that essential services will continue operating within designated times and parameters as already announced.

President Mnangagwa said the Government had now embarked on expanded tests covering the whole country and this gave room to gauge the magnitude of the problem, while promptly isolating cases early enough.

All health institutions, he said, should become testing centres, which called for an increase in the number of laboratories countrywide to ensure results of tests would come soon enough to allow for timeous interventions.

“This means more recruitments, more specialised training and retraining so our hardworking health workers know how to play their part in the fight against Covid-19, without putting themselves in harm’s way. Our industries and tertiary institutions must be repurposed so they can make significant contributions to this new thrust,” said the President.

President Mnangagwa said the provision of personal protective equipment for health personnel had been prioritised.