Cash payouts and 4,000 extra nurses as Zim begins 21-day lockdown

30 March 2020 - 20:36 By LENIN NDEBELE
President Emmerson Mnangagwa pleaded with Zimbabweans in a televised address that the 21-day lockdown, which began on Monday, was not a punishment but a decision to save lives.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa pleaded with Zimbabweans in a televised address that the 21-day lockdown, which began on Monday, was not a punishment but a decision to save lives.
Image: Jekesai NJIKIZANA / AFP

A million vulnerable households in Zimbabawe will receive cash payouts, import duties on medical supplies have been suspended, and over 4,000 more nurses will be employed.

These are some of the steps promised by Zimbabwe's government in its fight against Covid-19 during the 21-day lockdown, which began on Monday.

Finance minister Mthuli Ncube made the announcement on Monday. He said ZW$100 million [about R5m) and US$2m (R35.9m) have been allocated to the health sector during this time.

A package for households is set to be announced in due course.

Ncube said the effects of the Covid-19 during the lockdown would “spell economic doom”, hence the sudden move by the government.

More than seven million Zimbabweans are faced with starvation because of drought and a failing economy. Most of them are in rural areas, where the government said it will continue with food aid assistance.

Three new cases have been detected, bringing the number of those infected to nine, with one death. The latest cases are two people from Ruwa, Mashonaland East, who had contact with a 52-year-old man who had been to Dubai, the ministry of health and childcare said today.

Meanwhile, there was little or next to no activity in Zimbabwe’s urban centres on the first day of the 21-day lockdown.

This was partly because of the government’s threat that anyone found in town would have to explain their reasons and provide proof.

Deputy minister of information, publicity and broadcasting services Energy Mutodi said: "Police may arrest and indefinitely throw into detention any offenders including those found loitering or breaking the lockdown rules. Police cells may be crowded and unsafe."

In both Harare and Bulawayo, the country's two largest cities, supermarkets, pharmacies and fast-food outlets were open. Supermarkets were letting in people in small batches after being sanitised.

The Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) was meanwhile doing rounds. On roads leading into central business districts, there were roadblocks manned by the police. There was no trace of the military on the streets.

Inter-city travel was minimal. Tollgate employees who spoke to TimesLIVE said they had sat for hours without a car coming through.

However, for essential service providers such as nurses, it was hard to get transport to work. One female nurse in Bulawayo told TimesLIVE that she had been waiting for transport for almost two hours.

In the high-density areas where most people reside, it was much like any other day. People were going to the shops casually and in most areas there was no police patrol.

“We decongested the CBD, but back here we are going about our business as usual. I can even congregate with my friends because there are no police officers to put pressure on us. Not that they have to, we just have to be responsible adults,” said one township resident.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa pleaded with the public in a televised address on Monday that the lockdown was not a punishment but a decision to save lives.


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