By Farirai Machivenyika
Government has suspended face to face meetings in the public service to ensure safety of its employees and has trimmed its workforce to 30 percent as the ongoing fight against the Covid-19 pandemic intensifies.
This comes as 34 people had died yesterday while 1 365 cases were recorded. Harare recorded 777 of the new cases.
This was announced by the Acting Minister of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Dr Jenfan Muswere during an update on the Level Four lockdown that began yesterday.
The lockdown was announced by Vice President Constantino Chiwenga who is also Minister of Health and Child Care on Saturday with Acting President Kembo Mohadi giving policy direction on the implementation of the lockdown on Sunday.
Dr Muswere also said Public Service Commission had streamlined to 30 percent, the essential services workforce of public servants expected to be physically at work across all Ministries and Government departments.
“Face to face meetings have been suspended. Meanwhile, strict Covid-19 protocols on PSC buses will be enforced. Knock-off time for Government employees shall be 3pm,” he said.
The minister reiterated that only essential services would be allowed to operate during the lockdown as stipulated by law, including closing at 3pm.
He said other commercial operations and services specified in Part 5 of the lockdown order, that is to say all formal businesses and registered informal traders, had been suspended as from yesterday.
“Regarding law and order, our security forces are on high alert and vigilant to arrest offenders. In particular, the Task Force noted the suspension of Matapi police officers for negligently allowing a super spreader event to proceed under their watch as well as the arrest of organisers of the big, illegal event that took place in Mbare on New Year’s Eve,” Dr Muswere said.
In an earlier interview, Public Service Commission (PSC) Secretary Ambassador Jonathan Wutawunashe said the trimming of the workforce was aimed at minimising the risk of infection within the public service.
“We have directed that only 30 percent of the public service be at their respective workplaces as a way of decongesting the workplaces. Others will work from home and some on call and might be told to report for duty if those at work are overwhelmed or need to rest,” said Ambassador Jonathan Wutawunashe.
Those coming to work would be given safety nets to fall back on in the event they contracted or succumbed to Covid-19 complications. Ambassador Wutawunashe said some benefits set out last year still stood, like giving those who fell sick, up to six months of sick leave on full-pay as well as paying all medical bills for frontline health staff.
Generally, civil servants are entitled to 90 days’ sick leave on full salary if they are incapacitated by ill-health.
Families of civil servants who succumbed to Covid-19, if infected in the line of duty, would be looked after, and the Government was still committed to paying a full year’s salary to families along with the normal benefits payable to the family of a deceased.
Ambassador Wutawunashe said such commitments were a sign of the Government’s care for its workers.
Dr Muswere said the commencement of the 2021 primary and secondary schools’ classes had been deferred till further notice to allow for monitoring of the Covid-19 pattern.
“Further to this, the nation is advised that teachers, including invigilators as well as pupils sitting for exams, will be given free passage to their respective schools, subject to them having a clearance letter from the Ministry authorities.
For Higher and Tertiary Education students, classes will continue online while final exam classes will be allowed free passage to sit for their examinations,” he added.
He said media practitioners were considered an essential service and would continue to practice using the 2020 accreditation cards while the Zimbabwe Media Commission puts in place modalities for the issuance of this year’s accreditation cards.
He added that support staff for the Media Industry at large would have exemption letters issued through the Ministry of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services on request from their media houses.
“Concerning information and risk communication, the sub-committee will continue to hold awareness campaigns in line with Covid-19 regulations and disseminate Covid-19 messages through the media focusing on behaviour change.
“Sub-national structures were already engaging key stakeholders such as traditional, political and religious leaders to ensure that the message cascades down to the grassroots,” he said.
Dr Muswere said land borders remained closed and would only be permissible for citizens and returning residents upon production of valid Covid-19 free certificates issued within 48 hours.
He added that the plight of Zimbabwean citizens who had returned for the festive season from neighbouring countries, especially from South Africa but wanted to return to their bases, would be looked at.
He reiterated the need to observe the lockdown guidelines.
“We all have a collective responsibility to ensure our personal safety, safety of our loved ones and that of the nation at large. We can stop Covid-19, let us all play our part. Social and physical distancing, staying at home, masking up and personal hygiene including sanitising and frequently washing our hands with soap and running water will do the trick,” he said. The Chronicle