The Level Two national Covid-19 lockdown has been extended by a further two-weeks with no further relaxations and citizens are being urged to follow all required safeguards as complacency continues to creep in despite average daily infection rates still running at around twice the level seen before the third wave.
While the third wave was beaten back, the Government wants to avert a fourth wave by maintaining lockdown measures that limit infection risks, especially as each wave of Covid-19 infection is longer and worse than the previous wave.
The Ministerial Covid-19 Taskforce, chaired by Vice President and Minister of Health and Child Care Dr Constantino Chiwenga, has now been expanded to include provincial affairs ministers and provincial medical directors to ensure that all areas are given full priority in fighting the risks.
The country’s vaccination drive has seen more than 3,22 million getting their first dose while more than 2,486 million have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19, leading to just over 1000 active cases countrywide and just 530 new infections in the seven days to Monday and 18 new deaths in that week.
However, complacency has been creeping into society, with people disregarding mitigatory measures after the World Health Organisation (WHO) commended the Government for the way it has managed to contain the spread of the pandemic, a complacency also seen in declining numbers willing to queue for their vaccination jabs.
Last night after yesterday’s Cabinet meeting, Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister Monica Mutsvangwa announced the continuation of the lockdown as well as measures agreed by the Cabinet to respond to the pandemic.
“In spite of the declining cases of Covid-19 cases the Level Two lockdown will be maintained for a further two weeks and members of the public should strictly adhere to the stipulated measures.
“Given that the Covid-19 intensity and duration both increase with each wave, citizens should continue to observe the Covid-19 protocols and preventive measures in place in order to prevent a fourth wave.
“Law enforcement agents and the Public Service Commission will continue to strictly enforce the Covid-19 containment measures, especially the vaccination requirements pertaining to gatherings, opening of bars and nightclubs, and the requirement for civil servants to be vaccinated in order to be allowed to report for work,” she said.
The vaccination requirements refer to the relaxations seen in recent weeks where most of the leisure sector has been allowed to reopen, but only for the fully vaccinated.
Only those who have had both jabs can eat in restaurants, go to the cinema and theatre, enter a bar or nightclub, or play sport.
Minister Mutsvangwa explained the expansion of the Ministerial Covid-19 Taskforce chaired by VP Chiwenga and deputised by the Minister of Higher and Tertiary Education, Innovation, Science and Technology Development, Professor Amon Murwira.
“The structure has now been expanded to include members of the original taskforce and Ministers of State for Provincial Affairs. It will be supported by a working party of officials chaired by the chief coordinator for the national Covid-19 response programme in the Office of the President and Cabinet.
“The working party membership includes the original taskforce working party members, provincial development coordinators and provincial medical directors,” said Minister Mutsvangwa.
She said the Government continues to ramp up the country’s case management capacity.
A consignment of medical equipment, including ventilators, multiparameter monitors, syringe pumps, infusion pumps and intensive care unit beds was purchased and has since been received. The equipment was distributed to central hospitals in the country.
She said a vaccination campaign involving the local leadership was introduced in Chitungwiza to raise the vaccination levels in Zimbabwe’s third largest urban authority and similar campaigns will be conducted in most cities led by provincial task force teams.
Meanwhile, the Government continues the implementation of its pledge to improve the livelihoods of civil servants through a range of schemes.
Minister Mutsvangwa said: “As announced at the last post-Cabinet press briefing, Government is focusing on accelerating the provision of non-monetary benefits to health workers as a short to medium-term measure to stem the brain drain observed in the health sector.
“Accordingly, completion of the model flats to be constructed for health professionals across the country’s provinces is being expedited,” she said.
“The civil servants’ vehicle loan scheme rates are being reviewed, while a strategy whereby the Government acquires vehicles for health worker beneficiaries, with the loan being amortised through an agreed framework, is being worked out.
“Regarding the provision of canteen or cafeteria services at health institutions, seed money will be provided to revamp and operationalise existing canteens as well as construct new ones where the facilities are not available.”
Minister Mutsvangwa said updates on the other issues will be announced once significant progress has been made.