Public Health Lock-down Order – New Restrictions – Bill Watch 39/2021

Since our last bulletin on the subject there have been several amendments to the Lock-down Order, the most important of which were contained in SI 153A/2021 which imposed a special lock-down in Kwekwe district; SI 170/2021 which extended the lock-down to Hurungwe and Kariba districts and tightened restrictions elsewhere; and SI 183/2021 which imposes restrictions on travellers who have come from or passed through India, and extends the special lock-down, with some additional restrictions, on Makonde District.

A consolidated version of the Lock-down Order can be accessed on the Veritas website. In this Bill Watch we shall explain the recent amendments.

Passenger Transport

Passengers can be carried in public service vehicles but:

  • The vehicles must not carry passengers in excess of their maximum seating capacity, which must be clearly displayed on the outside of the vehicles.
  • Everyone in the vehicles must wear face masks.
  • Before entering a vehicle, passengers must have their temperatures checked and their hands sanitised.
  • Vehicles must be disinfected at every stopping point where passengers embark or disembark [Comment: this seems impractical if only one or two passengers get on or off a vehicle].
  • Enforcement officers – health officers or police officers – may demand that drivers prove by affidavit when where and how their vehicles were last disinfected.

These requirements are specified in a new section 5(1)(c) [wrongly numbered as 5(1)(b)] inserted in the Order by SI 170/2021.

Partial Return to Previous Higher Level [IV] Lock-down

A new section 26E has been inserted in the Lock-down Order, again by SI 170/2021, which re-imposes some restrictions that had previously been lifted. These new restrictions will last until the 27th June and, it should be noted, apply throughout the country. They are:

Funerals

No more than 30 people may gather at a funeral.

Passenger transport

Passenger transport services may continue to operate so long as they observe the precautions noted above, and so long as their vehicles are provided by ZUPCO.

Tobacco auctions and mining operations

Tobacco auctions and mines may continue functioning, but in the case of tobacco auctions the following requirements must be observed:

  • The general requirements in the Order relating to face masks, the taking of temperatures and the sanitising of hands must be strictly observed.
  • No more than two people may accompany tobacco bales being moved into an auction floor.
  • All employees of auction floors must be tested for COVID-19 every 14 days.
  • No hawkers and vendors are allowed on the premises of any auction floor.
  • There must be facilities at every auction floor for farmers and their workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

Other businesses in the formal sector

Businesses in the formal commercial and industrial sector can remain open, subject to the general restrictions laid down in the Order and, in addition, to the following:

  • The general requirements in the Order relating to face masks, the taking of temperatures and the sanitising of hands must be strictly observed.
  • Businesses, other than those providing essential services, can be open only between the hours of 8 a.m. and 6 p.m.
  • Meetings of more than two people and “workshops” [those talkfests so popular with NGOs] may not take place physically but only virtually – i.e. online through programs such as Zoom or Teams. This applies also to meetings and workshops held by government departments and local authorities, but it does not apply to organisations that provide essential services.
  • Offices of businesses that have more than three employees must be decongested so that no more than half the staff are present at any one time. Again, this applies to offices of government departments and local authorities but not to organisations that provide essential services.
  • Churches and other places of worship must be closed.
  • Parliamentary committees cannot hold public hearings.
  • Beerhalls and night clubs must be closed.
  • Bottle stores may open only between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. daily. Everyone present in a bottle store must wear face masks, observe social distancing and have their temperatures checked and their hands sanitised.
  • Restaurants may open only for take-aways and may not provide seats for customers waiting for their take-away food.
  • Bars attached to restaurants and lodges must close by 10 p.m. daily.

Sporting activities

Medium-risk and high-risk sports are prohibited for the period of the lock-down. Only low-risk sports are allowed, so long as participants observe “previously approved COVID-19 protocols”. It is not clear what exactly this means, but presumably participants and spectators must observe social distancing, wear face masks, have their temperatures taken and their hands sanitised, and must not share sporting equipment, clothing and towels, and must observe the other requirements of section 18 of the Lock-down Order. The Sports and Recreation Commission has published a list of low-risk sports which are allowed. They are:

  • Angling, Aquatics, Archery
  • Athletics, Badminton, Bass (fishing?)
  • ChessCricket, Cycling, Draughts
  • Equestrian, Golf, Horse racing
  • Lawn Bowls, Motor sports, Polo
  • Polo Crosse, Rowing, Shooting
  • Table tennis, Tennis,Teqball
  • Triathlon, Woodball

Gyms are not allowed to open.

Informal sector

So-called “people’s markets” can operate but must close no later than 6 p.m. Everyone in such markets must observe social distancing and wear face masks and must have their temperatures taken and their hands sanitised.

Travellers

People entering Zimbabwe from India and from “COVID-19 infection hotspots” – i.e. SADC countries declared to be hotspots by the Vice-President, will have to undergo stringent quarantines. They will be tested on arrival and if found positive for COVID-19 will be taken to an isolation centre and kept there at their own expense. For how long is not stated. Even if they test negative they will have to be quarantined for 10 days at a hotel at their own expense, and at the end of that 10-day period they will be tested again.

Special Lock-downs in Kwekwe, Kariba, Hurungwe and Makonde Districts

SIs 170/2021 and 183/2021 extend the special lock-down applicable to Kwekwe so that it applies to Kariba, Hurungwe and Makonde Districts as well. This lock-down will end on the 27th June. The restrictions in all four districts are the following, namely:

  • There is a curfew from 7 p.m. every evening to 6 a.m. the following morning. Only traffic on essential services is permitted to go through the districts during the curfew hours. [This could impinge on long distance lorry drivers wanting to travel at night]
  • Public transport vehicles may carry passengers, but only to half their seating capacity. Passengers must wear face masks and must sanitise their hands and subject themselves to temperature testing when boarding.
  • Everyone in a public place must wear face masks and must observe social distancing.
  • Formal meetings of more than two people in a public place are prohibited.
  • No one may loiter in a public place.
  • Bars, drinking places, beer-halls and night clubs must be closed, though bars attached to hotels, lodges and guesthouses may be open for room service.
  • Bottle stores may be open only between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. There must be no drinking in them and everyone must observe social distancing, wear face masks and have their hands sanitised and their temperatures taken.
  • Other businesses can open only between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m.
  • Restaurants and food outlets may serve take-away food only and may not provide seating for customers waiting for their food. Restaurants attached to hotels, lodges and guesthouses may be open for room service.
  • Offices of businesses, government and local authorities must be decongested so that in establishments with four or more employees, only a quarter of the employees are present at any one time.
  • Funeral gatherings are limited to 30 persons and may only take place in the presence of, or under the supervision or guidance of, enforcement officers, and in accordance with instructions given by them
  • All other public gatherings are prohibited.
  • Long distance haulage lorries may stop only at places designated by enforcement officers, i.e. health officers, police officers and army personnel.
  • The Grain Marketing Board and tobacco auction floors must observe the provisions we mentioned the section above for auction floors during the Level IV lock-down.

Anyone breaching these restrictions will be liable to a fine of up to ZW$800 000 or up to a year in prison.

Comment

As we have pointed out in previous bulletins, the Lock-down Order has been amended so many times, 27 to date, that it has become very difficult to understand. So difficult indeed that the authors of the latest amendments seem not entirely sure what is in the Order and what is not. Provisions relating to the quarantining of travellers from India were repealed by SI 153A/2021, probably in error, then referred to in SI 170/2021 even though they had been repealed, and then reinstated by SI 183/2021. If even the authors are confused, the general public cannot be expected to understand precisely what is expected of them.

COVID-19 is likely to be with us for a long time to come and there will be a continuing need for precautions to be taken against it. It is essential that the law imposing the precautions should be as easy to understand as possible. The sooner the Order is completely revised and reissued in a simplified form the better it will be for us all.

Source: Veritas

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