By Vusumuzi Dube and Dumisani Nsingo
People who will get out of their homes without face masks will from tomorrow be arrested as part of a raft of measures meant to ensure that the country conforms to Covid-19 lockdown Level Two guidelines announced by President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Friday.
Mnangagwa announced that the country will extend the national lockdown which was meant to end at midnight today by a further 14 days but downgraded it to Level Two, which entails among other guidelines that all people must wear face masks of any type, even home-made cloth ones, in all public spaces and when they are outside of their homes.
Mnangagwa also announced the reopening of industry and commerce provided that the companies ensure mandatory screening and testing and operate from 8am to 3pm.
Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Mr Nick Mangwana told Sunday News that wearing face masks in public was now law, after a Statutory Instrument was gazetted by the President yesterday.
On the monitoring of companies to ensure that they adhere to the 8am to 3pm operating hours, Mr Mangwana said the police would be in full force to ensure the adherence, revealing that companies will be heavily fined or lose their licences in the event they are caught on the wrong side of the law.
Mr Mangwana said while exemption letters were not policy, administratively authorities would require people to present evidence that they were part of the bracket of people that were required to go to work as per the provisions of the lockdown.
“The exemption letters were not part of law as such but what will prevail is that the police will ask people just to produce proof of where they are going. For example, when people are going to a funeral, the police may ask for the proof, which is for administrative purposes but the policy will then be the number of people meant to attend a funeral.
“The police may ask people to prove that they work under the category of industry and commerce. People can then produce these exemption letters, in some cases, this can take the form of company identification documents,” said Mr Mangwana.
He said what is important to highlight was that the informal sector remained closed hence those in the informal sector were not exempted from the lockdown.
Writing on his twitter handle, Mr Mangwana added that “restaurants and other eateries can sell food but people should not eat on the premises. They have to take away the food.”
Mangwana added: “People have to understand that the virus is still with us. Nothing has happened to the virus. We need to continue taking caution and understand that the lockdown is still in force. However, the directive means that some businesses have to open but people have to be tested first. If they are found to be positive they will be quarantined, if they are not they will be allowed to work.”
Asked which businesses will be allowed to open, Mr Mangwana said:
“For example, I asked the President specifically about the saloons, he said yes, they can operate but only if they are complying with all these requirements such as social distancing, testing, wearing masks and sanitisers. The hairdresser who is at work should have a mask. The client who wants to have his or her hair done should also have the mask.
“So the message from the President is that if anyone wants to start operating, they have to put safety measures first. On tuckshops, it depends whether they are formal or informal. The President in his statement was clear on which informal sectors will be allowed to open.”
In announcing the downgrading of the lockdown to Level Two, Mnangagwa also said all workers are set to be screened and tested to prevent the spread of Covid-19. The President said schools, universities and colleges will remain closed and an announcement on their reopening would be made at an appropriate time after consultations.
Across the globe, individual countries decide to scale down the lockdown levels at any given time, based on prevailing conditions, health officials said. Lockdown Level Five entails drastic measures to contain the spread of the virus to save lives.
At Level Four, some activity can be allowed to resume subject to extreme precautions required to limit community transmission and outbreaks.
Level Three involves the easing of some restrictions, including on work and social activities, to address a high risk of transmission, while Level Two involves, among others, further easing of restrictions, but there is maintenance of physical distancing and restrictions on some leisure and social activities to prevent a resurgence of the virus and at Level One, most normal activity can resume, with precautions and health guidelines followed at all times.
Meanwhile, Eagle Liner/Intercity Express bus company will this week start ferrying Zimbabweans intending to return home from South Africa, with those wishing to use the bus operator footing their own bill.
The announcement was made by the Zimbabwean Consulate in South Africa which consulted the bus operators to facilitate the self-funded repatriation of Zimbabweans in that country.
The returnees will pay R600 for the trip and they will be subjected to 21 days mandatory quarantine at designated centres in Beitbridge. Those without travel documents should urgently contact the Consulate to apply for a temporary travel document before booking. Sunday News