BY BLESSED MHLANGA /MIRIAM MANGWAYA
GOVERNMENT yesterday announced a staggered reopening of schools, with examination classes set to resume face-to-face lessons next Monday on August 30 and the rest of the learners joining them on September 6.
Addressing a post-Cabinet meeting yesterday, Information minister Monica Mutsvangwa also said restaurants could now reopen for sit-in customers, but only for fully-vaccinated patrons and observing COVID-19 regulations.
The reopening of schools was announced a day after government extended the level four lockdown by two weeks.
Mutsvangwa said government had reached the decision after consulting the Health ministry as well as teachers, who have been threatening to withdraw their labour if the schools reopen before their salaries are increased.
“The Primary Education ministry met with teacher organisations and deliberated on the safe reopening of schools among many other issues, noting with satisfaction the preparation for the resumption of classes and schools,” Mutsvangwa said.
“Cabinet is advising that schools will reopen on August 30, 2021 for examination classes, and on September 6, 2021 for non-examination classes.”
Level four lockdown is accompanied by inter-city travel ban and curfew which could affect the movement of schoolchildren who travel to and from their learning institutions.
Government said it would allow inter- and intra-city travel during the schools opening period, to allow boarders smooth passage.
“As such, the inter-city and intra-city transportation for learners will be allowed during schools reopening periods, subject to close monitoring by law enforcement agencies,” Mutsvangwa said.
Government sought to assure parents that it was safe to reopen schools even though the nation is under level four lockdown for the next two weeks.
“The collaboration between the Primary and Secondary education and Health and Child Care ministries has buttressed the sectors COVID-19 prevention and management systems. The two ministries met with provincial teams to evaluate progress in the implementation of the joint operational plan,” Mutsvangwa said.
Government also eased lockdown measures on restaurants for sit-ins only for fully-vaccinated patrons, just two weeks after allowing churches to resume services.
“The nation is further informed that restaurants will be allowed to reopen for sit-in patrons who are fully vaccinated subject to the production of vaccination cards and strict adherence to COVID-19 protocols,” Mutsvangwa said.
Zimbabwe will be donating 20 000 vaccines to Namibia and is well on course to attain herd immunity by December this year, she added.
“The country has already acquired 13 million doses out of 20 million required in order to reach herd immunity. On the advice of scientists, the vaccination programme will be extended to the 14–17-year age group,” she said.
Mutsvangwa also said government would take stern action, including cancelling operating licences for fuel companies accessing fuel on the foreign currency auction system, but selling it in foreign currency.
Meanwhile, health experts have queried the government’s justification in extending the level four lockdown when statistics were showing that there was decline in both new infections and deaths.
The country has been under level four lockdown since the beginning of July this year.
According to situational reports released by the Health ministry, in the past seven days, the highest number of deaths recorded was 44, way below the country’s highest record of 107 deaths last month.
In yesterday’s Cabinet minutes, the government noted that there was a 32% decrease in weekly cases from 3 761 during the week ending August 15, 2021, to 2 564 in the week ending August 23, 2021.
The Zimbabwe Senior Hospital Doctors Association said there was a reduction in COVID-19 admissions at most hospitals, hence the justification for extending level four lockdown was questionable.
“Situational reports from @MoHCCZim (Health ministry) clearly show COVID-19 infections well below the resurgence threshold. Most COVID-19 units countrywide have significantly reduced admissions. Lockdown has achieved its aims,” the doctors said.
“If we are basing decisions on statistics and science, what is the justification for the extension?”
Medical and Dental Private Practitioners of Zimbabwe Association president Johannes Marisa said since there was a decline in the number of COVID-19 infections and deaths, there was a need for government to consider easing the restrictions to allow economic activity.
“We have a decline in both new cases and deaths, according to statistics from government. We expect government to consider easing the lockdown in anticipation of the fourth wave,” Marisa said.
“Since the fourth wave is highly probable towards the end of the year, during this period when new infections, deaths and admissions are receding, it is prudent for government to open schools and allow some social and economic activities to take place as it is vital for people’s livelihoods.
“Probably, government wants to be very careful, not to rush to lift the measures to avoid a situation where the wave hits us again.”
- Follow us on Twitter @NewsDayZimbabwe