Sunday, 03 January 2021 13:52

Staff Reporter.

Photo Credit: 123RF.

Zimbabwe extended a nationwide curfew, banned gatherings and ordered non-essential businesses closed for a month on Saturday in an effort to curb a surge in coronavirus infections.

Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga, who is also health minister, said some of the tighter restrictions were effective immediately and included a 6pm to 6am curfew and a ban on inter-city travel. From Tuesday, non-essential businesses would also be suspended, he said.

"People must stay at home save for buying food and medicines or transporting sick relatives, "Chiwenga told a news conference.

However, these services will now operate between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m.

He warned that offenders would be prosecuted.

Chiwenga said only key commerce services are allowed to operate such as mining, manufacturing and agriculture, while the rest of formal and informal businesses are suspended for 30 days with effect from Jan. 5.

Inter-provincial and inter-city transport services will also be restricted only to essential services and commercial services.

He said people must stay at home save for buying food and medicines and transporting sick relatives.

Cross border traders have also been stopped forthwith, save for commercials and transit cargo related to essential and critical services.

The country had recorded 1,342 Covid-19 cases and 29 deaths in one week, the highest to date, he said.

"Only essential services are to remain open such as hospitals, pharmacies and supermarkets, with only essential staff allowed to come to work," Chiwenga said, adding such services would have reduced hours and be subject to the night curfew.

Chiwenga said air travel was still allowed, with arrivals and returning residents being required to present certificates showing themselves to be free of Covid-19.

Zimbabwe first introduced a tough lockdown in March but had gradually eased the restrictions. It has recorded a total of 14,084 cases and 369 deaths.

Last week, the government postponed the reopening of schools planned for Monday, due to a surge in coronavirus infections and a tropical storm that swept through the region.