On the 28th January Acting President Chiwenga announced that the national lock-down would be relaxed as the fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic appeared to be ending. Four days later, on the 2nd February, the government published SI 18 of 2022 which gives legal effect to the relaxation. The SI can be accessed on the Website , as can a consolidated version of the Lock-down Order incorporating the latest changes.
The changes are as follows:
Opening of Schools
According to the SI, “the general school calendar for in person schooling commences on the 7th February, 2022” – or, put simply, schools reopen today. They will have to comply with sanitary measures laid down in circulars issued by the Ministries responsible for education, which presumably will deal with wearing face masks, washing hands and social distancing (i.e. keeping at least one metre apart) to the extent that such measures can be observed in schools.
Educational institutions other than schools?
The reference to the “general school calendar” implies that only schools are allowed to reopen, which raises a question about the reopening of other educational institutions such as universities. If they are not covered by the new SI then they must remain closed because section 4(1)(e) of the Lock-down Order states:
“every … educational institution (whether primary, secondary, tertiary or technical and vocational, except for institutions providing medical training or research useful for combating COVID-19) shall be closed (other than such an institution providing online or distance tuition)”.
The SI should be amended as soon as possible to clarify the point.
Curfew hours are now from midnight to 5:30 the next morning. The SI points out that curfew does not apply to “essential services and other exceptional cases specified in the principal order”, which means that the following people do not have to observe the curfew:
- Persons engaged in essential services as defined in section 25 as read with section 2 of the Lock-down Order [see Consolidated lockdown order link above]. The definition is long and convoluted and, apart from covering such obviously essential services as hospitals, water, electricity and communication services and fire brigades, includes such less obvious ones as Ethiopian Airways and the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange. Staff of supermarkets, food stores, financial institutions and courts are not included in the definition and have to observe the curfew.
- Persons who are buying medicines or seeking medical assistance, or are assisting someone to whom they have a duty of care
- Staff of foreign embassies, missions or agencies, and
- Persons who can show exceptional or humanitarian grounds for leaving their homes.
Restaurants, Hotels, Nightclubs and Licensed Premises
According to the SI, these businesses “shall operate” from 8 a.m. until 10 p.m. daily, though admission is restricted to customers and patrons who show they have been fully vaccinated. Despite the mandatory language, this does not mean that the businesses must operate during those hours; all it means is that so far as the Lock-down Order is concerned they are permitted to be open. If their licences prescribe shorter hours (and bottle store licences certainly do) then they must comply with their licences.
Other businesses can open fully or partially, at their discretion, though they must strictly observe all measures prescribed in the Lock-down Order with respect to wearing face masks, temperature checks, sanitising hands and social distancing.
Returning residents and visitors must produce a certificate showing that no more than 48 hours before departing for Zimbabwe they underwent a PCR test and tested negative for COVID-19.
- Visitors who cannot do this will be denied entry to Zimbabwe.
- Returning residents who cannot do this will be quarantined at their own expense for 10 days, but if they test positive on arrival they will be kept in a place of isolation in accordance with the Lock-down Order.
Visitors and residents who produce the certificate and show that they have been fully vaccinated will be allowed into Zimbabwe without being quarantined.
Continuation of Other Measures
The SI does not affect other measures such as wearing face masks in public places, particularly on public transport, social distancing and sanitising. These measures remain in force and will be subject to periodic review by the government.