A commuter wearing a face mask awaits transport to get out of the central business district of Harare. AFP/Jekesai Njikizana
HARARE - Zimbabwe's government on Saturday imposed a national lockdown with immediate effect, following a surge in COVID-19 cases, creating a major problem for most citizens who rely on the informal employment sector.
Only essential services, such as hospitals, pharmacies and supermarkets will remain operational for the next 30 days, putting more pressure on already poverty-stricken families.
The southern African nation is already struggling with a deepening economic crisis, hyperinflation and high unemployment.
The government first imposed a nationwide lockdown in March to contain the spread of COVID-19 but had eased most of those measures amid fears of further economic malaise
Vice President and Health minister Constantino Chiwenga told reporters there had been a huge spike in cases over the festive season which almost doubled the number of infections recorded throughout the year.
"In light of the recent surge in COVID-19 cases the following stiff lockdown measures are being put in place with immediate effect," he said.
"Gatherings are reduced to not more than 30 people at all funerals. All other gatherings at weddings, churches, bars, bottle stores, gymnasiums, restaurants etc etc are banned for 30 days," he added.
Even premises providing essential services will have to close at 3 pm.
A new overall curfew will run from 6 pm to 6 am.
COVID-19 cases have almost doubled in two months from 8,374 at the start of November to 14,084 now.
A total of 369 virus-related deaths have been recorded in the country since the outbreak of the pandemic.