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Zimbabwe announces new COVID lockdown measures

By TONDERAYI MUKEREDZI in Harare | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2021-06-15 16:23

Zimbabwe announced an assortment of measures to contain a surge in new coronavirus cases and deaths witnessed during the past week, including banning all public gatherings starting Monday.

Vice-president Constantino Chiwenga, who made the announcement over the weekend, said 596 new cases and 26 deaths had been recorded during the past seven days compared to 132 new cases and six deaths recorded in a comparative period in May.

"This is a more than four-fold increase in new cases and deaths. Sadly, it has been noted there has been a general complacency in adhering to the preventative measures, both in the communities and workplaces. We are also witnessing a sharp increase in cases and deaths globally and in the Southern African Development Community region," Chiwenga, who also doubles as the minister of Health, said at a press conference.

The only public gatherings allowed are funerals, whose numbers have been revised down to 30 people.

Other measures include the decongestion of offices by 50 percent, new operating hours for shops from 8 am to 6 pm and the mandatory wearing of face masks in public places, social and physical distancing, and washing and sanitizing hands frequently.

Beer halls and nightclubs remain closed with hotels, lodge bars and restaurants allowed to open only to residents until 10 pm.

The new COVID-19 lockdown measures come as the government placed Hurungwe and Kariba districts in Mashonaland West Province on a two-week total lockdown starting Friday, after more than 40 cases were recorded in the districts within three days.

On June 8, the Cabinet extended the lockdown of the Midlands city of Kwekwe by a further two weeks in the wake of a surge in positive cases and the detection of the Delta variant in some of the new cases. Kwekwe was initially locked down on May 24 after the variant was found in the city. The public is prohibited from travelling to hotspot areas.

By Saturday, Zimbabwe had 39,852 confirmed cases and 1,632 deaths. The country has vaccinated 692,180 people, mostly with vaccines from China. Last week, Zimbabwe received the first consignment of 25,000 of 50,000 Sputnik V vaccines kits donated by Russia. A delivery of 500,000 doses of vaccines is expected in the country from China on Tuesday.

Bulawayo-based medical practitioner Professor Solwayo Ngwenya said the coronavirus is getting extremely serious and the whole of Africa faces a potentially catastrophic situation amid a sluggish vaccination program hamstrung by a shortage of drugs.

In a statement issued on Friday, the World Health Organization said the number of coronavirus cases was rising every week and had increased by about 20 percent to over 88 000 in the week ending June 6.

"The pandemic is trending upwards in 10 African countries, with four nations recording a spike in new cases of over 30 percent in the past seven days, compared to the previous week," the WHO said. Seventy-two percent of all new cases were reported in Egypt, South Africa, Tunisia, Uganda and Zambia, with over half of the cases recorded in nine southern African countries.

On June 12, South Africa, which leads the continent's infections and death charts, reported 9 320 new cases had been identified, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 1,739,425. The country is under level 2 lockdown and calls have heightened to escalate the lockdown to level 3 to avert a crisis.

Africa has over 5 million confirmed COVID-19 cases, about 2.9 percent of global infections.

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