Zimbabwe lockdown curfew
(ARCHIVE PHOTO) HARARE, ZIMBABWE - APRIL 3: Deserted streets are seen as part of coronavirus (COVID-19) measures in Harare, Zimbabwe on April 3, 2020. (Photo by Wilfred Kajese/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
  • Zimbabwe has recorded a sharp surge in Covid-19 infections, with cases recorded in December 2020 accounting for nearly half of the cumulative caseload.
  • With healthcare services bracing for impact, the government has forced Zimbabwe back into a hard lockdown.
  • A ban on all non-essential business, social gatherings, intercity travel and one of the strictest curfews in the world are expected to last until at least 5 February 2021.
  • For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

While South Africa battles its own second wave of Covid-19 infections, neighbouring Zimbabwe has returned to hard lockdown as already embattled healthcare services face a dire surge in hospitalisations. The closure of all non-essential services, a 12-hour curfew and restrictions on public transport make Zimbabwe’s January lockdown far harsher than South Africa’s.

Almost half of Zimbabwe’s cumulative Covid-19 caseload was recorded during December, with new cases growing by more than 10% in the last week of 2020. Total cases recorded since the start of the outbreak now exceed 14,000 and at least 369 Zimbabweans have succumbed to the virus.

The sudden spike in infections is a cause for serious concern, according to Zimbabwe’s Health and Child Care Minister, Constantino Chiwenga, due to the country’s severely under-resourced hospitals and clinics. In an attempt to halt the coronavirus’ second wave, Chiwenga, on Saturday 2 January 2021, announced a host of strict lockdown regulations.

See also: SA back to 'adjusted' Level 3 - here are some of the new rules

The announcement follows South Africa’s decision to implement an adjusted Level 3 lockdown to preserve medical resources as both private and public healthcare facilities near full capacity. Zimbabwe’s hard lockdown features similar containment methods, although the intensity of these restrictions is drastically heightened.

While South Africa’s adjusted Level 3 lockdown has hurt the tourism and hospitality sector – due to the closure of beaches, prohibition of alcohol and establishments forced to close at 20:00 – the economy at large remains open.

Zimbabwe’s already crippled economy will remain shuttered until at least 5 February 2021. Only mining, manufacturing and agricultural sectors will be allowed to operate as normal. Hospitals, pharmacies, and supermarkets will stay open but are only permitted to operate between 08:00 and 15:00. All other businesses – both formal and informal – have been instructed to close.

Similar to South Africa’s adjusted Level 3 lockdown laws, all social gatherings have been outlawed in Zimbabwe. The only exception applies to funerals, which can only be attended by 30 people. Funerals in South Africa are permitted to accommodate 50 people.

Zimbabwe’s amended curfew hours are some of the strictest in the world, forcing all persons to be in their homes for half of the day, between 18:00 an 06:00. Chiwenga added that the curfew, and the wearing of face masks in public, “will be strictly enforced and offenders will be prosecuted”.

See also: A R1,500 fine for not wearing a mask – and double that for breaking curfew

Additionally, Zimbabwe’s “lockdown order” only allows movement for buying food, medicine or transporting sick relatives during the day.

Intercity transport – which includes both public services and private motorists – will only be extended to essential services.  

Zimbabwe’s schools, which were initially due to reopen on 4 January, will remain closed and only pupils scheduled to write exams will be permitted to attend an isolated examination venue.

Although Zimbabwe hasn’t explicitly outlawed the sale of alcohol – as has been done in South Africa – the closure of restaurants, bottle stores and bars has forced the legal liquor trade to a grinding halt. The only exception applies to hotel restaurants and bars which will be allowed to service paying guests.

While air travel into Zimbabwe remains unhindered by the new hard lockdown, only returning residents and essential services – including commercial and transit cargo carriers – will be allowed to enter the country through its land borders. For visitors flying into Zimbabwe, tourist facilities and national parks will remain open but will be bound by the adjusted curfew hours.

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