Zimbabwe goes into 21-day national lockdown over coronavirus

27 March 2020 - 20:54
Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa. File photo.
Image: JEKESAI NJIKIZANA / AFP Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa. File photo.

For the first time, President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his rival, MDC Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa, have agreed on something: a 21-day lockdown of Zimbabwe.

Mnangagwa said during his state of the nation (Sona) address on Friday night that, with effect from Monday, only essential services would be operational.

He said it was “time to put political differences aside” in the face of the coronavirus and the respiratory illness it causes, Covid-19.

After Mnangagwa’s presentation, Chamisa told TimesLIVE that Zimbabweans must unite to save lives.

“The decision to lockdown Zimbabwe is necessary, wise and supported. We are in circumstances of a catastrophe. There is only one Zimbabwe. We are one people, politics aside we must unite to save lives,” Chamisa said.

Mnangagwa had come under attack from Zimbabweans for delaying announcing the full lockdown. His latest decision got a buy-in from health practitioners.

“If we don’t lockdown we could count dead bodies in the next few weeks. This is a good move,” said Mpilo General Hospital clinical director Dr Solwayo Ngwenya.  

Some of the key highlights of Mnangagwa’s statement were:

  • Funerals will be exempt from the lockdown but only 50 mourners are allowed;
  • Food hoarding has been discouraged and those suspected to be doing so could face criminal charges;
  • The army will join the police in patrolling the streets;
  • Only Zimbabwe Passenger Company (Zupco) will provide public transport. Private operators have been outlawed for the period;
  • Food markets will remain open but will be supervised by public health officers;
  • Those queuing to fuel their cars will not to be allowed to get out of their vehicles.