12 months in jail for people who gather in crowds of more than 50 people, govt introduces new law

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PRESIDENT Mnangagwa yesterday mourned journalist Zororo Makamba who became the first Zimbabwean to succumb to Covid-19 and announced a raft of measures to contain the virus.

He ordered the closure of all borders to human traffic and banned non-essential travel except for the movement of cargo.

The Government also promulgated Statutory Instrument (SI) 77 of 2020 that provides for up to 12 months imprisonment for people who gather in crowds of more than 50 people, likely to promote the spread of Covid-19.

Makamba (30) who had an underlying heart condition died at Wilkins Hospital in Harare yesterday morning.

He had been admitted to the hospital after testing positive for coronavirus as the country's second patient after the first case was recorded on Friday in Victoria Falls.

In a statement, President Mnangagwa said he learnt with great shock and sadness of Makamba's death as Government hoped he would recover.

"His passing on so suddenly has been unexpected as we had held high hopes also for his steady recovery following the good news about our first confirmed victim of the virus who has registered commendable recovery. Sadly, for Zororo, this was not to be as he had an underlying heart condition for which he had been receiving medical attention," said President Mnangagwa.

"Zimbabwe has lost a promising young man from a crop of highly skilled and gifted youthful journalists striving to produce excellent local content and professionalism to broadcasting in this country."

He extended his condolence message to the Makamba family.

"On behalf of Government, Zanu-PF, my family and on my own behalf, I wish to extend to the Makamba family, his relatives and friends, my heartfelt condolences on this their saddest loss which is our loss together," he said.

In his address to the nation on additional measures towards enhancing Covid-19 prevention in Zimbabwe last night, the President said the closure of borders will not affect returning residents who will be subjected to rigorous screening on entering the country.

"While our borders remain open to essential traffic, both in the interest of our economy and that of corresponding economies of our region, we have decided to ban non-essential travel and traffic, both in-bound or out-bound. Except for the movement of cargo, Government will close all our borders to human traffic," he said.

President Mnangagwa said screening on essential traffic will, however, continue to be strictly enforced in line with best practices and guidelines prescribed by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

"As announced previously, measures on designated border crossings remain in force. All our returning residents, will be subjected to strict screening procedures, including rigorous enforcement of the 21-day self-quarantine, which must not be breached for whatever reasons. Certificates of Covid-19 fitness especially from countries with high incidences of infections, would greatly assist all of us in controlling the pandemic both inside our country and globally," he said.

The President urged citizens to desist from unnecessary travel in and around the country.

"Further, from now until further notice, Government discourages unnecessary travel in and around the country. To the extent possible, families are encouraged to postpone non-essential travel. Additionally, unnecessary movements beyond homes, including social visits to relatives and friends, should be avoided," he said.

"Essential trips should be trimmed to the barest minimum, both by frequency and by numbers involved."

President Mnangagwa also announced Government's blanket ban on gatherings around recreational facilities such as nights clubs, bars, beerhalls, movie houses, swimming pools, gymnasiums and sporting activities until further notice.

"I am aware that this curtailment of social activities will be hard on all of us. However. Such tough measures have become necessary and unavoidable for our collective safety as a nation," he said.

Hospital and clinics will enforce one visit per day with one relative allowed per patient with immediate effect.

The President also announced that the number of people in public gatherings has been reduced from 100 to 50 people and such gatherings include religious fellowships, weddings, conferences, workshops, meetings and funerals.

"Wherever possible, Government is encouraging automated electronic services in order to minimise human contact and interface. This is particularly important in dispensing essential services such as banking, payments of utilities and other services for which online options are available," he said.

While, the Government will not at this stage close down informal markets, the President has however, urged citizens to limit their visits to such markets.

He said health and security personnel and other volunteer workers will be deployed in the markets to enhance screening services.

"All transport operators are encouraged to comply with public health measures which Government will be announcing shortly, all for the safety of commuters. These include screening on points of embarkation and occasional decontamination operations targeting public vehicles and depots," said the President.

He said given the high multiplier nature of Covid-19, control and containment measures largely depend on the Government's ability to track down and account for all persons who may have come in close contact with an infected person.

"Members of the public and especially families are required to cooperate with health personnel and law enforcement agencies deployed on such tracing operations," said President Mnangagwa.

The President also urged employers and business associations to explore creative ways of reducing human concentrations at work stations.

"Additionally, they are also being encouraged to observe safe social distancing parameters as set out by WHO. Wherever possible, non-essential staff, or even essential staff whose services can be efficiently rendered from home, should be encouraged to take turns to work, or to serve from home, respectively," he said.

President Mnangagwa also appealed to the business community to redouble their commitment towards social responsibilities in tackling the global pandemic.

He also urged those involved in the manufacturing and trading of materials essential in the fight against coronavirus such as sanitisers, protective clothing and masks to resist the temptation to callously feed fat on the current situation through extortionate pricing.

"Any evidence of irresponsible corporate misbehaviour will leave Government with no option but to come down heavily on offenders. We have to behave responsibly to protect the public," said the President.

President Mnangagwa said he was aware of the plight of health personnel, describing them as front-liners in the fight against the pandemic. He said they deserved support and should be rewarded for their efforts.

So far more than 340 000 people have been infected globally while more than 14 000 people have since died.

Government has promulgated Statutory Instrument (SI) 77 of 2020 to govern conduct of members of the public in a bid to contain and prevent the spread of corona virus by banning public gatherings.

The Public Health (Covid-19 Prevention, Containment and Treatment) Regulations, 2020 criminalises events that can lead to members of the public spreading coronavirus.

Police will arrest individuals who violate the laid down procedures.

"Any person partaking at a gathering or convener thereof — (a) partakes in or convenes a gathering knowing that such gathering is prohibited in terms of subsection (1); or (b) refuses to disperse from a gathering after being ordered to disperse in terms of subsection (2)(a); shall be guilty of an offence and liable to fine not exceeding level 12 or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding one year or both such fine and such imprisonment," reads the SI.

— Chronicle


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