The Zimbabwean government said Tuesday that a more contagious strain of the coronavirus is circulating in Zimbabwe.
Addressing a post-cabinet media briefing, Information Minister Monica Mutsvangwa said the nation now needs to be more vigilant following the detection of the new variant.
“Cabinet wishes to inform the nation that results of the genomic sequencing recently conducted indicate that the type of COVID-19 virus that the nation had in 2020 has receded… Accordingly, the nation now needs to be more vigilant than before and adhere to COVID-19 prevention and control measures,” Mutsvangwa said.
She said the COVID-19 vaccination in Zimbabwe will commence on Thursday this week on a voluntary basis after the country on Monday received its first batch of 200,000 doses of Sinopharm vaccine from China.
The vaccination program will be done in three phases, with 22 percent vaccinated under phase one, 18.4 percent under phase two and 18.4 percent under phase three to achieve a target of vaccinating nearly 60 percent of the country’s population, the minister said.
Frontline workers, the elderly, vulnerable groups, university lecturers and school teachers will be prioritized for vaccination.
Zimbabwe has procured 600,000 more doses from China which are expected in the country in March, in addition to more support that has been promised by India and Russia to the country’s vaccination program.
Mutsvangwa said the vaccination program covering all three phases will require a total budget of 6.8 million U.S. dollars.
She said the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccines will follow the existing distribution structure of routine vaccines and supplies.
“Cabinet wishes to assure the nation that procurement of vaccines is an ongoing process in line with the set target. Research is also continuing to ensure that only suitable vaccines will be administered on our people,” she said.
Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Monday extended the six-week nationwide lockdown by a further two weeks, citing the need to further reduce COVID-19 cases and deaths.
He, however, increased business operating hours and shortened night curfew hours.
Staff levels in government were also increased to 25 percent from 10 percent. The president said schools will remain closed for the duration of the lockdown, and maintained a ban on inter-city and inter-provincial travel.
“In view of the realization that infection and deaths rates are still high despite a downward trend, Cabinet endorsed the President’s decision to extend the Level Four lockdown measures for a further two weeks,” Mutsvangwa said.
As of Monday, Zimbabwe had recorded 35,222 cases of COVID-19, 30,759 recoveries and 1,410 deaths. Enditem