Herald Reporters

The number of confirmed Covid-19 cases in Zimbabwe reached 512 yesterday, although 438 of these are among returning residents in quarantine with only 74 people being infected within Zimbabwe, including the two latest confirmed yesterday.

The Ministry of Health and Child Care announced 23 new positive cases yesterday with 21 among returnees in official quarantine and two within the community, with both of them contacts of known confirmed cases.

So far 63 347 Covid-19 tests have been done in Zimbabwe, counting both the rapid screening tests and the diagnostic PCR tests. The death toll remains at six.

After yesterday’s meeting of the ad hoc Inter-ministerial Taskforce on Covid-19, the Government confirmed that filling stations, as a defined essential service, can remain open and sell fuel during the hours for which they were originally licensed and are not obliged to close at 4.30pm.

At the same briefing yesterday Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister Monica Mutsvangwa said the Zimbabwean Consulate in Johannesburg had been temporarily closed after two more officials were confirmed positive for Covid-19.

Regarding the transport subsector, particularly at a time fuel supplies are inconsistent countrywide with long queues becoming the order of the day at most filling stations, Minister Mutsvangwa clarified the legal position in terms of operating hours for fuel retailers.

“Following reports on erratic hours of operation by some fuel retail outlets, the Attorney-General has clarified that fuel retail outlets are classified as an essential service under the lockdown regulations,” she said, adding:

“As such, retail outlets are allowed to conduct trade during their normal hours of operation. Their hours of operation are not confined to 8am to 4.30pm which applies to some other exempted categories of business.”

The temporary closure of the Johannesburg consulate comes after two more cases among staff, bringing the total to six for staff and their families.

Minister Mutsvangwa said the infected officials “had been to Limpopo and Lindela Detention Centre to screen and assist Zimbabweans who were being repatriated home”.

To mitigate exposure of officials through contact with citizens seeking consular services, the consulate is now offering most of its services online.

“Meanwhile, two of those who tested positive have been checked into an isolation lodge away from their families,” the minister said.

The Government remains committed to the repatriation of citizens from South Africa, where initially 2 600 Zimbabweans registered for assistance. In that regard, “137 Zimbabwean nationals were repatriated from Durban and KZN on 19 June 2020”.

South Africa is now easily the worst hit country in Africa with 97 302 confirmed cases and 1 930 deaths from Covid-19 by yesterday morning as the number of confirmed cases world wide rose to just over 9 million, with millions more likely as some countries do not test all suspected patients, and 469 220 deaths.

Most of Zimbabwe’s recorded cases are among those returning from South Africa.

To date Zimbabwe has received 9 735 returnees from 48 countries with the number of positive cases rising sharply in the past fortnight from 54 to 512, 438 of which being imported cases, mainly from South Africa, Botswana and the United Kingdom.

Concerning the repatriation of students from foreign lands, Minister Mutsvangwa said the position is that no students on Government scholarships, save for five from India who have since arrived in the country, have expressed the need to be repatriated.

Pertaining to those students who had been paying their own way and now might have to return, she said: “Negotiations are underway with financial institutions to set up an ad-hoc ticket loan facility that could enable the purchase of tickets by families who wish to repatriate students who have been self-funding their studies abroad.”

Families of such learners in Zimbabwe, she indicated, “would be able to borrow money from such a facility to purchase one-way tickets”, subject to the financial organisations’ terms and conditions.”

In a post-Cabinet briefing last week Minister Mutsvangwa said Government was exploring ways of assisting Zimbabwean students stranded in foreign lands, pointing out that these students had to be identified and their needs known to find out what sort of help they might need.

Minister Mutsvangwa urged Zimbabweans to remain consistent and vigilant in the fight against the global pandemic which she said “cannot be identified by the naked eye”.

In his Covid-19 update address at State House recently, President Mnangagwa said the threat posed by Covid-19 is still hanging over the nation, therefore, citizens should embrace the new normal that has been brought by the plague, which at present has no cure.

Under level two lockdown, the country is gradually returning to full economic activity, with an orderly reopening of the informal sector under the “new normal” spelt out by the President: of masks, registration with local authorities, high levels of personal hygiene, social distancing and minimum non-business travel.

Agriculture, food markets, tobacco marketing, and most of the formal sectors have already been allowed to reopen under set conditions.