While ordinary business can continue to operate between 8am and 3.30pm, those working late and those not at home after the 6.30pm curfew must now produce evidence, such as an exemption letter, that they are providing an essential service, the Government said yesterday.
The three hours between 3.30pm when most businesses must close and 6.30pm, when the curfew comes into effect, is seen as adequate for staff in the general economy to clear their workplace and get home.
The Cabinet agreed on Tuesday that better enforcement of the lockdown was required because there was an element of non-compliance of the enhanced lockdown measures.
These measures were added to the standard lockdown in the middle of last month, basically a ban on social and religious gatherings except for funerals of less than 30 people with business meetings now to be virtual.
There was a further tightening last week by President Mnangagwa, mainly an extended curfew, narrower business hours, a ban on intercity passenger travel and 60 percent of staff to be working from home.
Some people were confused by the Cabinet decision to demand better compliance, and were not helped by some misleading interpretations put out on social media platforms.
Putting the position straight in an interview, Secretary for Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Mr Nick Mangwana said there had been no new changes in the lockdown regulations and almost all economic activity could continue in the same way as it had since the shorter hours announced last week.
But enforcement of the 3.30pm deadline for close of most business and the 6.30pm curfew was being improved by requiring those who needed to remain open later and those who had to be out and about after curfew needed to be able to show they were exempted.
“The position is that all businesses will be allowed to operate but should do so within the stipulated time which is 3.30pm. The expectation is that between 3.30 pm and 6.30pm people should be going home ahead of a curfew set at 6.30pm. After 3.30 pm, only essential services as spelt out by the law are allowed to open,”
said Mr Mangwana.
He reminded businesses and others that they were expected to reduce their workforces on business premises by riding on technological platforms so people could work from home and meetings should be held virtually where possible.
Inter-city passenger travel remained banned and law enforcement agencies will continue to enforce this with those seeking an exemption going through the normal procedure and providing evidence of why they needed an exemption.
Police have been stopping people travelling after curfew, seeking an explanation and recording details even when they accept that the travel is legitimate.
The enhanced measures were put in place, and the school holidays were extended, to help combat a third wave of Covid-19 infection spreading from initial hotspots that were put under the tighter lockdown controls earlier.
Cabinet deployed Government ministers to the provinces to assess the position and reports indicated compliance of the lockdown was constrained by a number of factors,
There was a shortage of some PPE, misinformation on vaccines about their alleged negative effects, and shortage of health care workers at some stations.
During the post-Cabinet public briefing, Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister Monica Mutsvangwa said some district hospitals, such as Nyanga and Chipinge require bulk oxygen tanks, while some like Zvimba in Mashonaland West, and Plumtree and Gwanda in Matabeleland South required functional isolation centres.
Construction work at Mvurwi Hospital in Mashonaland Central needed to be expeditiously completed to meet the current rising demand.
Funerals were singled out as major spreaders of infection within the provinces. Environmental health workers and police were now enforcing the 30-person limit, while village health workers were playing their part in educating villagers.
Cabinet wanted traditional leaders to be more visible and forceful in the enforcement of lockdown regulations.
Minister Mutsvangwa said it had been noted that public servants were facing problems of inadequate tools of trade such as desktops, laptops and vehicles including provision of adequate data to ensure compliance of the requirement that only 40 percent of staff should be at workstations with the rest working from home.
All efforts are being made to redress the situation.
There was often poor network connectivity for both staff reporting for duty and those working from home and some provincial taskforces indicated that there was erratic fuel supply and inadequate vehicles for operations.
The start of the second school term will see a combination of face-to-face teaching, remote home learning, community learning and the use of alternative platforms such as e-learning, radio and television, Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister Monica Mutsvangwa said after the Cabinet meeting on Tuesday.
All schools are at present being inspected to ensure they have finalised their Covid-19 preventative measures and have the basic equipment they need.