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More added to essential services list

GOVERNMENT yesterday expanded the list of essential service providers to include manufacturers and distributors of medical supplies to combat COVID-19 and but other medical emergencies.

GOVERNMENT yesterday expanded the list of essential service providers to include manufacturers and distributors of medical supplies to combat COVID-19 and but other medical emergencies.

By Phyllis Mbanje

The Health ministry, through the Public Health Act, made an order under Statutory Instrument (SI) 86 of 2020, which encompasses the COVID-19 Prevention, Containment and Treatment and the National Lockdown to expand on essential services.

Funeral parlours and other funeral services, including the manufacture and sale of coffins, are now classified under essential services.

However, transport services for ferrying mourners to or from funerals is still not allowed.

Ethiopian Airways will be allowed in Zimbabwe’s airspace and into and out of aerodromes “that are, in terms of this order, open for air traffic”.

To also benefit from these exemptions are agricultural activities on farms including, in particular, the planting of any winter season crops, the harvesting of crops and land preparations for agricultural activities.

Under this provision, the supply of agricultural inputs and stockfeed as well as the supply and distribution of veterinary requirements for domesticated farm and non-farm animals as well as the dipping of cattle will be allowed.

Operation of inland waterborne transport services in areas where this is the normal mode of transportation for access to essential goods and services was also permitted.

Also, operations of the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange were allowed.

SI 86 of 2020 was initially gazetted on April 3.

Meanwhile, in another legal instrument, importation of essential goods to fight COVID-19 into the country will be duty-free for now.

Some of the essential goods are undenatured ethyl alcohol, gauzes, bandages, hand sanitisers and other disinfectants, ozone, oxygen, aerosol therapy and respiration apparatus.

Also included are masks, gloves, toilet paper, protective apparel and clothing accessories and syringes. However, stakeholders have taken the new measures with scepticism.

Community Working Group on Health director Itai Rusike said when reviewing the Public Health Act, the Health minister was supposed to consult the Advisory Board of Public Health (PHAB) and stakeholders to review the submissions and proposals for the review of the Act.

“Unfortunately, the PHAB has not been functional, hence the unilateral decision by the minister. The new measures that are being proposed by the minister are not without debate,” he said.

Rusike said there was an argument that the imposition of a lockdown as a suppression measure in late March was well-timed to avoid the mass outflow from schools and towns over the Easter holidays, taking the virus to new areas and across borders.

“However, the duration of a lockdown calls for careful balancing of the public health measures and their social-economic impacts,” he said, adding that restricting the movement of people and goods during public health emergencies was effective in most situations and may divert resources from other interventions.

“Furthermore, restrictions may disrupt businesses and may have negative social and economic effects to the concerned economic sectors,” Rusike said.

He, however, noted that in certain circumstances, measures that restrict the movement of people may be temporarily useful.

“Flattening the curve may not be the best approach for a country like Zimbabwe, given our young population, many informal residents and workers, inadequate water supplies and income insecurity and a health system with an extremely limited coping capacity.”