President Emmerson Mnangagwa has announced that increased coronavirus disease (COVID-19) lockdown measures, including a dusk-to-dawn curfew, will be enforced across Zimbabwe from Wednesday, July 22. Under the restrictions, people in the country are expected to remain at their place of residence except when purchasing food and other essential goods or seeking medical assistance, although some essential workers are exempt. Opening hours for essential businesses have also been reduced to 08:00 - 13:00 (local time), with the enforcement of health and hygiene measures in shops being tightened. The new 18:00 - 06:00 curfew, which comes into effect from Wednesday, is expected to be vigorously enforced by security forces, although those providing essential services will be allowed to continue working during curfew hours.
Previous COVID-19 restrictions announced by the government, including a ban on inter-city public transport, a ban on public social, political, and religious gatherings, and the compulsory use of face masks in public, remain in force.
The enhanced lockdown and curfew measures follow a surge in COVID-19 cases in Zimbabwe from less than 1000 to at least 1820 in the last week, with almost half of these reported to be imported cases. However, observers and opposition groups have accused the government of using the increased restrictions to justify a crackdown on opposition activity ahead of planned nationwide anti-government protests on July 31, which have since been banned due to the lockdown.
As of Wednesday, July 22, there have been 1820 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 26 associated deaths in Zimbabwe. Further international spread of the virus is to be expected over the near term.
The first case of COVID-19 was reported on December 31 and the source of the outbreak has been linked to a wet market in Wuhan (Hubei province, China). Since then, human-to-human transmission of the virus has been confirmed. Cases of the virus have been confirmed in numerous countries and territories worldwide. On March 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the global outbreak a pandemic. Virus-screening and quarantining measures are being implemented at airports worldwide, as well as extensive travel restrictions.
The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, dry cough, and tiredness. Some patients may experience other symptoms such as body pains, nasal congestion, headache, conjunctivitis, sore throat, diarrhea, loss of taste or smell or a rash on skin or discoloration of fingers or toes. These symptoms (in most cases mild) appear gradually. Generally, most patients (around 80 percent) recover from the disease without being hospitalized.
Measures adopted by local authorities evolve quickly and are usually effective immediately. Depending on the evolution of the outbreak in other countries, authorities are likely to modify, at very short notice, the list of countries whose travelers are subject to border control measures or entry restrictions upon their arrival to the territory in question. It is advised to postpone nonessential travel due to the risk that travelers may be refused entry or be subject to quarantine upon their arrival or during their stay.
To reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission, travelers are advised to abide by the following measures:
- Frequently clean hands by applying an alcohol-based hand rub or washing with soap and water.
- When coughing and sneezing, cover mouth and nose with a flexed elbow or tissue; if used, throw the tissue away immediately and wash hands.
- If experiencing a fever, cough, difficulty breathing, or any other symptoms suggestive of respiratory illness, including pneumonia, call emergency services before going to the doctor or hospital to prevent the potential spread of the disease.
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