Zimbabwean security forces on Tuesday cleared Harare’s city centre and turned back thousands of commuters and motorists as authorities reinforced restrictions to combat the spread of coronavirus following a spike in new cases.
An AFP correspondent witnessed police and soldiers at checkpoints turning back bus-loads of people and motorists saying only essential services workers such as doctors and nurses could proceed into the capital city central business district.
Using loudhailer, police drove around telling people to “leave town and go home”.
Shops were ordered closed.
In a statement, police said besides essential services workers, “the rest of the public should stay home in order for the nation to curtail the increase in new Covid-19 cases currently being recorded”.
Coronavirus cases spiked from 34 at the start of May to 203 on Tuesday, with the majority of the cases being citizens returning from abroad.
The country has recorded four deaths.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa imposed a lock-down on March 30 banning large gatherings and ordering most businesses to close except food shops in a move aimed at curbing the spread of the virus.
Last month he relaxed the restrictions, allowing large corporations to open but under strict safety conditions for workers and customers.
Government spokesman Nick Mangwana said there was nothing unusual about the escalation of restrictions.
“Govt has not pronounced a change in Lockdown Regulations,” Mangwana tweeted, adding police “were only enforcing the pronounced and gazetted” regulations.
Police said they have so far arrested more than 50,700 people countrywide for breaching the confinement regulations since the lockdown came into effect.
“We were moving freely of late with some using exemption letters from their employers but today things were different,” said Kuda Vheremu, a businessman who runs a computer repair and sales company.
“The soldiers and police are in a different mood today. I don’t know why they are like this today.” AFP