Congestion, panic buying in Bulawayo
By Nqobile Tshili and Oliver Kazunga
BULAWAYO residents yesterday defied stay-at-home lockdown measures that Government imposed with effect from Saturday to combat the spread of Covid-19.
It was a hive of activity in the city centre as residents queued in various shops while some went about their day-to-day activities.
Some residents said they were making last-minute shopping in anticipation of the intensified lockdown measures that come into full force today.
Vice President and Health and Child Care Minister Dr Constantino Chiwenga on Saturday imposed a strict 30-day lockdown, to prevent the spread of the virus.
The new lockdown measures were gazetted through Statutory Instrument 10 of 2021, Public Health (Covid-19 Prevention, Containment and Treatment) (National Lockdown) (No. 2) (Amendment) Order, 2021 (No. 9).
Under the measures, most commercial and informal sectors will be closed except hospitals, supermarkets, pharmacies among other essential service providers.
Productive sectors such as mining and agriculture will also remain operational during the restrictive period.
Some of the tightened measures came into effect on Saturday and these include the banning of church services and weddings while bottle stores, bars, gymnasiums and restaurants operations were suspended.
People not working in sectors providing essential services were directed to stay at home.
Formal and registered informal traders that have not been classified under the essential services category will be closed for 30 days from today.
Other regulations that come into effect today include limiting inter-city and inter-provincial travelling to essential service providers only while the Government closed land borders with effect from midnight.
The borders will only receive returning residents who must have Covid-19 certificates obtained within 48 hours.
Yesterday, it was business as usual in Bulawayo as members of the public made their way into the city centre.
Unlike what is expected during a total lockdown, Bulawayo’s city centre was heavily congested with motorists while residents flocked into shops, the market place and others queued to buy electricity tokens.
Scores queued to board Zimbabwe United Passenger Company (Zupco) buses while others were collecting money from international money transfer agencies. Even pirate commuter omnibuses made a killing due to the increased number of commuters while the market place was highly active.
Informal traders were fully operating as if the country was not in a lockdown.
Some of them were not sanitising customers or checking temperature as required by health guidelines.
A Chronicle news crew observed that most shops had complied with the 3PM closure time save for a few boutiques and food outlets.
The news crew also visited a number of suburbs where people were not observing measures to prevent the spread of covid-19.
In western suburbs such as Cowdray Park vendors had set up their stalls outside shops while children could be seen playing outdoors without wearing face masks.
Cowdray Park Terminus area was bustling with activity with residents paying little regard to new imposed measures.
Most members of the public were wearing their masks but not covering their noses or mouths.
Young men were also seen sharing alcohol in containers near Makoni shops in Pumula South.
In most suburbs residents joined Zupco queues hoping to go to the city centre.
Mr Nkosana Nkomo, a vendor from Mpopoma suburb, said the lockdown measures will seriously affect his livelihood.
“I didn’t know that tighter measures were already in effect. But a total lockdown reminds me of the first days of the initial lockdown that was imposed last year at the end of March.
“For some of us who depend on hand to mouth survival means this is going to be hard as we have no savings. But I understand the measures are meant to protect lives as there is a spike in Covid-19 cases,” said Mr Nkomo.
“However, I was not expecting that the Government would impose a total lockdown again. We just leave everything to God.”
Ms Sinomusa Sibanda from Lobengula West suburb who was receiving diaspora remittances said if her children had not sent her money, she was going to have a difficult time coping during the coming 30 days.
“We have seen how the cases keep going up, what is now worrying about the Covid-19 is that we know some of the people that have been infected by it. We definitely needed measures to contain the spread as most people had just relaxed.
“It’s unlike in the past when we just heard about Covid-19 without knowing someone who is infected. So, the question is how is the Government going to balance between saving lives and livelihoods. Already some of us who operate small businesses will be affected during this coming period,” said Ms Sibanda.
The Confederation of Zimbabwe Retailers (CZR) welcomed the tough lockdown regulations the Government has announced to prevent a catastrophe.
CZR president Mr Denford Mutashu said the country was in an extraordinary situation that calls for tough measures and diverting from the “business as usual” approach.
A man enters a bottle store along George Silundika Street yesterday which was open despite an order to close bottle stores for 30 days to contain the spread of Covid-19
“We are in an extraordinary situation which calls for extraordinary measures and discarding the business-as-usual approach, therefore, we should adhere to Covid-19 lockdown guidelines,” he said.
Mr Mutashu said the measures are necessary to save lives as President Mnangagwa has previously enunciated.
“The President has in the past said he has never seen a conference where people discuss how to resuscitate the dead. CZR calls upon members to adhere to the new measures which means opening and closing shops within the set timelines. CZR believes we will flatten the curve if we have all hands on deck,” said Mr Mutashu.
He urged both public and private institutions to implement Covid-19 prevention measures including disinfecting premises.
“We have noticed that some shops are negligent to such an extent that some customers are no longer sanitising at entry points let alone have their temperature taken.
“This must stop forthwith under the new measures. CZR continues to provide exemption letters for essential service and product providers like supermarkets,” he said. The Chronicle