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Extra measures to deal with new Covid-19 variant unveiled

Lockdown measures have been tightened to deal with the threat of a fourth wave of Covid-19 infections driven by the new Omicron variant and complacency, with returning residents and visitors now to undergo mandatory quarantine upon entry.

Curfew has also been extended from 9pm to 6am, and business hours enforced from 7am to 7pm. Hammering complacency as he announced the extra measures yesterday, President Mnangagwa also stressed that the measures are continuation of present regulations, but with more compliance demanded.

These include following WHO guidelines at social gatherings, allowing only the fully vaccinated into restaurants and bars, banning drinking at bottle stores, and full compliance with masking, sanitising, social distancing and other public health measures. All Covid-19 related funerals must be strictly supervised by the Ministry of Health and Child Care and environmental health officers and technicians.

President Mnangagwa said the longer curfew, tighter border controls and stricter adherence to public health advice were needed to protect the nation from the impact of a likely fourth wave.

“What raises our concern, and adds to our anxieties, is the outbreak of a new strain, Omicron, detected and reported in neighbouring countries only a few days ago. We face a new, added risk, which compounds the burden we already face and shoulder from known variants we have been grappling with since the outbreak of the pandemic.

“It is in view of this new, ominous development that Government has decided on new, enhanced measures to strengthen our national response, and to protect our nation from the impact of a likely fourth wave, which the new variant, Omicron, will most certainly aggravate,” he said.

“All returning residents and visitors have to undergo PCR testing, and will be quarantined, at their own cost, for days recommended by WHO, even if they present negative PCR test results from elsewhere.

“A daily curfew, running from 9pm to 6am, will be imposed to limit movement and hence transmission. Only essential services categories announced in previous gazettes stand exempt. All shops will open for business from 7am and will close for business by 7pm.”

The President said the number of people attending any public gatherings and their behaviour should be in compliance with WHO protocols of masking, social distancing and sanitising.

With regards to bars and nightclubs, only vaccinated patrons will be admitted while no liquor will be consumed at bottle stores. This has been the rule but enforcement has been minimal with people allowed into bars and restaurants without presenting vaccination cards, and public drinking in the vicinity of bottle stores. President Mnangagwa said the country had done a lot to contain the pandemic with notable success and called upon Zimbabweans to remain vigilant.

“Today we are counted among leaders when it comes to best preventive and curative practices. The above good progress notwithstanding, lately we have witnessed creeping complacency in most communities. Some individuals and groups are simply lowering their guard when it comes to measures we have recommended for Covid-19 prevention. In all likelihood, this worrisome

complacency is likely to get worse as the festive season approaches. Our nation thus faces the grim risk of a fourth wave which must be avoided at all cost.”

He urged the nation to continue adhering to the recommended prevention measures, including social distancing, wearing face masks properly, avoiding closed spaces, washing hands with soap and under running water, sanitising and also getting fully vaccinated.

“The country has enough vaccines to go round, with vaccination being done at Government expense,” said the President.

Treasury has already bought 20 million vaccine doses enough for the 9,4 million the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare estimates as the number of Zimbabweans aged 26 and over. The target will be raised when young age groups are considered safe for vaccination.

As of Monday, a total of 3 781 186 first doses had been administered while 2 804 465 people had received their second dose and are counted as fully vaccinated. This is just under 30 percent of the over 16s.

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