Lockdown: Tourism gets partial relaxation

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Herald Reporters

Lockdown regulations for the tourism and hospitality sector have been partially relaxed by Cabinet so these two sectors, the most severely hit by Covid-19, can carefully and safely resume limited operations.

Restaurants are now allowed to serve sitting customers within their premises, but using only half their licensed capacity, while safari operations and national parks are allowed to re-open to help boost domestic tourism.

Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister Monica Mutsvangwa said after yesterday’s Cabinet meeting that “in the tourism and hospitality sector, requests for variations of operating conditions in respect of restaurant operators, and to reopen safari operators for local hunting only and national parks were granted.”

Restaurants are already allowed to stay open for their full licensed hours, but have been limited to take-aways until yesterday’s extra, but partial, relaxation.

The global travel and tourism sector was the first area of economic activity to be hit by the Covid-19 crisis, with traveller figures dropping significantly as countries across the globe, Zimbabwe among them, imposed lockdowns.

Government has already availed a $500 million bank guarantee facility to help the tourism and hospitality sector survive the slump and prepare for recovery. The facility is meant to assist the tourism sector access working capital loans from banks and insulate their businesses from the effects of the pandemic.

With the need to maintain strict controls on foreign travellers entering Zimbabwe, including the mandatory quarantine, the sector and Government are looking at domestic tourism to start the recovery, that is Zimbabweans returning to restaurants and visiting tourist attractions.

In further briefings after the Cabinet meeting, Finance and Economic Development Minister Professor Mthuli Ncube said the temporary halt in trading on the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange (ZSE), the suspension of mobile money agent lines and the conversion of merchant lines to incoming transactions only will not affect investments as the aim was to end illegal activity.

Investors should not panic over the ZSE suspension as normalcy will return under a strengthened regulatory environment.

The decision to suspend trading on the ZSE was not at variance with Government’s thrust to instil market confidence in line with the mantra “Zimbabwe is open for business”. Investors should remain patient since the suspension was no different from the inconvenience experienced during long weekends.

“Stockbrokers should tell investors that their investments are safe. What you need to understand is these investments are handled in an off-balance sheet manner. Stockbrokers merely charge fees for advisory services. Secondly, the stock market is not opened on Saturdays, Sundays or Christmas holidays. It does not mean that when the stock market is closed, investments are insecure. It cannot be different this time around. It is similar to a long weekend and we will open once investigations are complete.”

Minister Ncube said Government was in the process of paying civil servants the recently announced 50 percent salary adjustment together with the US$75 allowance payable for the next three months.

Energy and Power Development Minister Fortune Chasi said the Government was seeking more solar power and would track all solar projects to ensure that companies implemented what they promised when they applied for operating licences.

Health and Child Care Acting Minister Professor Amon Murwira said Government would prioritise dialogue to address labour issues with health workers.

HERALD

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