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Zimbabwe defers phased re-opening of schools as Covid-19 cases rise

By Almot Maqolo

Zimbabwe government has deferred the phased re-opening of schools initially scheduled for 28 July, after public health officials and teachers unions expressed alarm at a significant rise in Covid-19 cases which surpassed 1000.

Of the one 1 034 confirmed cases so far, 725 were imported from countries in Africa, Asia, Europe and America with returnees from South Africa and Botswana contributing the most cases. This means the total number of locally transmitted cases now stands at three hundred and nine 309 cases.

The number of those who have recovered has increased to 343, while deaths have surged to 19. This leaves the number of active cases at 672. Bulawayo and Harare Metropolitan Provinces have recorded the highest number of deaths with seven and eight deaths respectively.

Briefing the media, after a cabinet meeting, Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister Senator Monica Mutsvangwa said the government is disturbed by the spike in Covid-19 locally transmitted cases and the number of deaths recorded.

“To curb the increase in transmissions as well as deaths from Covid-19, the following measures were adopted: that the current lockdown restrictions will be tightened, while localized lockdowns are introduced in hotspot areas and further opening up of the economy is halted; that testing in communities with high cases of local transmission such as Bulawayo will be increased.

“That the re-opening of schools shall be deferred pending a review of the situation, while the writing of public examinations continues; that private schools that have already opened without permission will be penalized.

“Government shall have the sole responsibility for inter-city travel for those that really require to travel especially to seek medical attention and that two buses will be availed to transport those that test positive from Beitbridge to their respective provincial isolation centres,” she said.

Mutsvangwa said government noted and approved the ongoing restructuring of the Ministry of Health and Child Care. She said government is concerned that some members of some religious sects have gathered in their numbers in Manicaland Province for their yearly retreat, in contravention of Covid-19 regulations that prohibit gatherings of more than 50 people.

“This poses high risk to the spread of Covid-19. Accordingly, Cabinet directed that the gathering should disperse forthwith,” she said. Meanwhile, President Emmerson Mnangagwa is expected to announce comprehensive measures on the way forward regarding the country’s response to the Covid-19 outbreak. 

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