Schools to remain closed as lockdown is extended





The Level Four lockdown in place for six weeks to combat the third wave of Covid-19 infection has been extended by a further fortnight since infection rates, while falling significantly over the last two weeks remain too high to allow any relaxation especially as rates spike in some neighbours, President Mnangagwa announced yesterday.

He also pressed all Zimbabweans not yet vaccinated to get their jabs, as mass vaccination was the only practical way for the country to return to normal economic and social activity with the population protected.

Announcing the extension at State House in Harare yesterday, the President said it was worrisome that Zimbabwe’s neighbours are registering a spike in infections and that needed vigilance on the part of Zimbabwe.

The third wave started being seen in localised areas in early June with the Government responding by banning all social and religious gatherings, except funerals limited to 30 people, and then putting in a tighter lockdown in the districts where most cases were being seen: Kwekwe, Kariba, Hurungwe and Makonde.

As signs appeared that the third wave was spreading out to other areas the Government moved fast at the end of June and President Mnangagwa announced the present Level Four additional measures that allow businesses, farms and mines to stay open but cuts business hours to 8am to 3.30pm, widens the curfew to 6.30pm to 6am, bans intercity travel, and wants a majority of staff in non-essential units to work from home.

Schools were not to reopen on the announced date for the second term and are to remain closed until the Government assesses the risks are low.

The third wave average of daily infections peaked on 15 June and have been falling steadily since but the average number of daily new cases is still around 30 times as severe as seen between infection waves, although well under half the average seen at the peak when they were 70 times worse.

Average daily deaths peaked just over a week ago and have been falling since, but are still about 20 times as bad as seen between waves.

The President noted that since the start of the Level Four lockdown the nation has made good progress

in controlling the resurgence, and hence the third wave.

The increase in new cases per day has gone down considerably in the past two weeks, even to less than 10 percent for most provinces.

This is a clear indication that the third wave, and the pandemic in general, is being brought under control.

Unfortunately, the number of new cases and deaths per day remains unacceptably high. It is for this reason that the current Level Four lockdown has to be extended by another two weeks. I urge us all to comply with requirements of this emergency,” the President said.

Besides the special measures in the Level Four lockdown, the President reminded everyone that adherence to the ordinary preventive measures, such as social distancing, wearing of face masks, and consistent hand washing would help Zimbabwe recover.

The President also called upon eligible Zimbabweans to get the free Covid-19 vaccinations.

“Everyone eligible for vaccination must get vaccinated urgently. There is no good reason to delay. Rather, we must all feel the urge and responsibility to protect ourselves, our families, our neighbours, and thus our nation,” he said

Citing the grim global statistics which stood, as of yesterday, above 202,8 million confirmed infections with over 4,29 million fatalities, the President said the passport to a return to normalcy was through vaccination.

“These grim statistics are ascribed to more virulent varieties, most notably the Delta variety which is highly infectious and spreads exceptionally fast. Global studies show a direct link between the rate of spread of Covid-19 pandemic on the one hand and those countries and communities with low vaccination rates on the other.

“Our continent of Africa now has more than 7 million infection cases, with over 177 000 deaths suffered so far. Zimbabwe has recorded over 116 327 cases of infections, with 3 900 of our citizens being lost to the pandemic. To date, we have recorded 88 829 recoveries.”

Trendsetting and outpacing its regional peers, Zimbabwe through its mass vaccination programme has given the first dose to more than 1,86 million people while 1,02 million have had the second dose for the high level of protection.

“We thus continue to lead most countries on the African continent. While these are great milestones, our country however still has a long way to go to reach over 60 percent of the population for herd immunity.

“Several countries, globally and in our region, are beginning to experience the fourth pandemic wave. Quite worrisome to us are trends in countries that are next to us. In almost all of our neighbours, infections have shown an upward trend. We, therefore, need to remain vigilant now and not later, if we are to effectively control the current third wave, and avoid a fourth wave,” he said. – Herald