Public Health Lock-down Order : Further Relaxation of Restrictions: Bill Watch 14/2022

On the 1st April the Government published SI 67 of 2022, which gives legal effect to a Cabinet decision last Tuesday that returning residents and visitors should no longer be required to present a negative PCR certificate on arrival in Zimbabwe. The SI can be accessed on the Veritas website , and so can a consolidated version of the Lock-down Order incorporating the changes made by the SI. In this Bill Watch we shall look at those changes.

Visitors to Zimbabwe and Returning Zimbabwean Residents

All people arriving at a border post, visitors and returning residents alike, will be allowed to enter Zimbabwe if they can show an enforcement officer (we shall explain shortly what that means) proof that they have been fully vaccinated, i.e. that they have received two doses of any of the vaccines approved by the World Health Organisation. Alternatively, if they cannot prove they have been fully vaccinated, they will be allowed in if they can present a certificate to an enforcement officer showing they have had a negative PCR test within 48 hours of leaving for Zimbabwe.

Visitors who cannot do either of those two things [i.e. neither show that they have been fully vaccinated nor that they have had a negative PCR test within 48 hours, will not be allowed into Zimbabwe].

Returning residents who cannot do those things will be given a PCR test at their own expense and, if they test negative, they will have to be quarantined – again at their own expense – for ten days. If they test positive they will be isolated at a hospital or place of isolation.

Enforcement Officers

The term “enforcement officer” is defined in section 2 of the Public Health (COVID-19 Prevention and Containment) Regulations, 2020 (SI 77/2020) to include members of the Defence Forces, police officers and health officers. Immigration officers are not enforcement officers for the purposes of the Lock-down Order, so strictly speaking they cannot require travellers to produce proof of vaccination or testing.

Quarantine and Isolation

It is not clear where returning residents who cannot produce proof of vaccination will be quarantined after testing negative at a PCR test. Some provisions of the original Lock-down Order – sections 7(2), 8 and 26D(2) for example – allow people to “self-quarantine” at home, but there is no mention in the latest SI of self-quarantining so presumably unvaccinated returning residents will have to go to a place of quarantine designated by the Minister of Health in terms of section 7 of the Public Health (COVID-19 Prevention and Containment) Regulations mentioned above. It is not clear however and the point should be clarified.

As for those returning residents who test positive on a PCR test after their arrival in Zimbabwe, they will be isolated at a place of isolation designated in terms of section 7 of the regulations.

Public Gatherings

The latest SI announced a lifting of restrictions on the number of persons who can attend public gatherings mentioned in the Schedule to the Maintenance of Peace and Order Act [which lists gatherings that can take place without prior notification to the police in terms of that Act].

What this means is that any number of people can attend the following gatherings:

  • Gatherings held for educational, recreational, sporting or charitable purposes.
  • Baptisms, weddings, funerals and cremations.
  • Non-political meetings held by professional, vocational or occupational bodies or by clubs, associations and other organisations.
  • Agricultural and industrial shows.
  • Theatrical performances, film shows, musical entertainments, circuses and fireworks displays.
  • Sales of goods or animals.
  • Gatherings held by registered trade unions for trade union purposes (this presumably includes workers demonstrations and pickets).
  • Gatherings held to form non-political clubs, associations and organisations.
  • Meetings of traditional leaders with their subjects.

There is no relaxation for political meetings and rallies, which means that if they can take place at all – which is doubtful in view of section 5 of the Lock-down Order – no more than 100 people may attend them [section 3(1)(f) of SI 228B of 2021].

At all permitted gatherings the standard precautions against COVID-19 must presumably be observed: face masks must be worn, persons’ temperatures must be checked, hands must be sanitised and everyone attending must observe social distancing. We say “presumably” because although the latest SI does not mention any precautions they are specified in section 3(1)(f) of an earlier SI, SI 228B of 2021.

General Comment

Regular readers of our bulletins on the amendments to the Lock-down Order may be getting tired of our repeated pleas for the Order to be re-enacted in simplified form. Nonetheless we must repeat it again. The Order has been amended so many times it has become impossible to follow. The latest SI does not try to amend the Order: it amends a previous amendment to the Order, which suggests that even the drafters have given up trying to understand the Order itself.

There have been frequent warnings that the current drop in Covid infections marks a lull, not the end of the pandemic, and that Zimbabwe will face another wave of the disease in the not too distant future. The Government should take advantage of the lull to review all the SIs pertaining to Covid and re-enact them in clear and simple terms.

Source: Veritas

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