Saturday, 2 May 2020

LOCKDOWN : LEVEL 2 EXPLAINED


GOVERNMENT yesterday gazetted Statutory Instrument 99 of 2020 to give clarity to the Level 2 national lockdown announced by President Mnangagwa on Friday.

The measures show a balancing act that allows reopening of some formal businesses coupled with extra caution and enhanced testing to prevent the spread of Covid-19. The new law prescribes hefty penalties of up to $36 000 or a year in jail for those who fail to comply.

SI 99 says: “Any person who fails to comply with an order of an enforcement officer given under this section, or who hinders or obstructs an enforcement officer from having the access referred to in subsection (6), shall be guilty of an offence and liable to fine not exceeding level twelve or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding one year or to both such fine and such imprisonment.”

SI 99 of 2020 prescribes that every individual must wear a mask “whether improvised or manufactured” when leaving home.

The new regulations also give clarity to businesses that are expected to open during Level 2 of the national lockdown.

“ . . . business in the formal commercial and industrial sector means any business, industry, trade or occupation . . . in goods or services for the generation of income or the making of profits, the formalisation of which is evidenced in any one or more of the following ways — (a) the holding of a shop or other licence from a local authority enabling it to operate the business in question from a specified premises; or (b) being the lessee of premises governed by the Commercial Premises (Lease Control) Act [Chapter 14:04]; or (c) being a registered operator for the purposes of the Value Added Tax Act; 

“ . . . or (d) being a registered as an employer for the purpose of paying employees’ tax under the Income Tax Public Health (Covid-19 Prevention, Containment and Treatment) (National Lockdown) (Amendment) Order, 2020 (No. 5) 554 Act, or otherwise making a regular return of income for the purposes of that Act; (e) being a party to a collective bargaining agreement negotiated through an Employment Council governing the business in question.”

In relation to transport services the new law states that “every vehicle used by the transport service must be disinfected against Covid-19 by or at the direction of an enforcement officer at least twice daily.”

It also stipulates that every individual must be temperature-tested and have his or her hands sanitised before being allowed to board buses while further reinforcing the decree that any public gathering should not exceed 50 people.

The S1 also prescribes that workers who are going to benefit from the relaxed lockdown must undergo rapid or PCR testing “before resuming work for the first time during the national lockdown, every person . . . must at the direction of an enforcement officer submit to screening and testing for the Covid-19 disease, whether by use of the rapid results diagnostic test or other test approved by the Minister of Health. (3) Employers of the persons referred to in subsection (1) must arrange with enforcement officers for the testing contemplated by subsection (2) to take place at an agreed time at the workplace or at any other place agreed between them, for which purpose they may contact the Ministry of Health Call Centre or the Ministry of Information Call Centre.”

SI 99 says all business are also expected to operate from 8am to 3pm “except for good cause” that can be proved to law enforcement agents.

Speaking to journalists in Harare yesterday, Health and Child Care Minister Dr Obadiah Moyo said a massive testing programme will be rolled out around the country soon, including both rapid testing and the more comprehensive Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) tests. 

“Rapid testing will allow us to carry out a surveillance screening, which will enable us to have a general picture of the country’s Covid-19 status while we continue with the PCR diagnostic testing in order to establish the definitive Covid-19 status of the country.”

Dr Moyo said the programme will see mandatory PCR tests being undertaken on “all admitted patients, all health care workers, security service employees as well as all clients testing positive following rapid screening”.

He said under the enhanced testing programmes, selected public and private health centres will conduct PCR and rapid testing, while outreach teams will be deployed to various parts of the country.

“Designated Government, mission hospitals and local authority institutions that conduct routine screening, and medical examinations for workers will now conduct Covid-19 rapid testing.

“The ministry will expedite testing both at designated facilities and their respective workplaces.”

Dr Moyo implored companies that have been granted the green light to open to enforce preventive measures and to ensure that all staff are tested.

Explaining further the new lockdown measures in an interview with The Sunday Mail yesterday, Secretary for Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Mr Nick Mangwana said: “People have to understand that the virus is still with us. Nothing has happened to the virus. We need to continue taking caution and understand that the lockdown is still in force.

“However, the directive means that some businesses have to open but people have to be tested first. If they are found to be positive they will be quarantined, if they are not they will be allowed to work.” 

On which businesses will be allowed to open, Mr Mangwana said: “For example, I asked the President specifically about the salons, he said yes, they can operate but only if they are complying with all these requirements such as social distancing, testing, wearing masks and sanitisers.

“The hairdresser who is at work should have a mask. The client who wants to have his or her hair done should also have the mask.

“So the message from the President is that if anyone wants to start operating, they have to put safety measures first. On tuckshops, it depends whether they are formal or informal. The President in his statement was clear on which informal sectors will be allowed to open.”

Mr Mangwana said exemption letters remain an administrative issue and police have the discretion to demand them.

In his statement on Friday, President Mnangagwa encouraged vulnerable groups to approach the Department of Social Welfare to register for assistance.

The President said only public buses will be the mode of public transport while kombis and smaller taxis are still not permitted to operate. 

Churches, gyms, bottle stores, bars, beer halls, leisure and recreational facilities remain closed, said the President.

Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries president Mr Henry Ruzvidzo yesterday said partial lifting of the lockdown was welcome but a lot will need to be in place to avoid altering the curve negatively.

“The requirement to test all employees will help the situation but facilities will need to be put in place quickly for the widespread testing. Businesses have to play their part to ensure worker safety.

“The stimulus package announced by Government can be a game-changer if applied wisely. The biggest risk is on currency if the funds are not directed largely at production.

“We are not privy to the modalities on sources of the funds and the disbursement models, which we hope will be announced shortly. The absence of external assistance for the country requires that we find the best models and application of the limited resources at our disposal.

“Involvement of all stakeholders in the heavy lifting that is demanded by our situation will be critical. The operational modalities for businesses are hopefully being finalised over the weekend so that disruptions are minimised when businesses resume on Monday.” 

Meanwhile, Dr Moyo yesterday explained the anomaly regarding the six cases that had initially tested positive before a retest provided negative results last week.

“Yes, the six cases initially came out positive but then tested negative. As part of quality assurance, we needed to have a retest because that was a sudden jump because previously we would have one or two positive cases.

“So it was a retest to ensure that all the high numbers were correct. Because of this quality assurance, people should not worry too much about our accuracy. I can assure the public that the quality of our results remains credible, if it had problems, these retests would not have given us accurate results,” he said, adding that the testing process was “a complex procedure”. Sunday Mail



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