Zimbabwe has extended its COVID-19 lockdown by another 14 days to May 3, President Emmerson Mnangagwa announced Sunday.

The government imposed a 21-day lockdown from March 30 to curb the spread of COVID-19. The lockdown was estimated to end today. During the lockdown, government has allowed only workers in essential services to continue going to work while observing precautionary and sanitation measures.

The number of COVID-19 cases in Zimbabwe rose to 25 after a case was recorded in Harare on Saturday, including two recoveries and three deaths.

“The country is yet to meet the conditions for lifting the lockdown that were recently announced by the World Health Organization,” he said.

He also noted that cases were increasing globally. “Guided by these realities and to allow ourselves greater leeway to prepare for worse times ahead, the government has decided to extend with immediate effect the national lockdown by a further 14 days,” he said.

Mnangagwa said it had been a difficult decision to take, but it was necessary and unavoidable given the circumstances.Among other measures, the military, police and municipal police were deployed to ensure that people stayed home and avoided unnecessary trips.

Retail shops were allowed to open until 3 p.m. every day, while members of the public could still purchase essential medicines from pharmacies.

Some sectors of the economy, which had initially been classified as non-essential were later allowed to operate, such as beverage manufacturers and the agricultural concerns.

Meanwhile Zimbabwe will this week re-open Beitbridge, its major border post with South Africa, to receive more than 3,000 of its citizens who have been residing in the neighboring country.

Most of the returnees crossed the border illegally into the neighboring country but have requested to be sent back home in the wake of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, state media reported Sunday.

According to the Sunday Mail, they will be received without any conditions attached, Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Deputy Minister Lovemore Matuke said.

He did not say when exactly during the week the border post, which is currently open to commercial clients only, will be re-opened to other forms of traffic but said all logistics with their South African counterparts were being made to allow even those without the requisite papers to pass through.

“We are going to open the Beitbridge Border Post to allow for the passage of the country’s citizens back into the country.

We have more than 3,000 who have requested to be sent back home… We don’t want them to use illegal channels to come back because we want to account for everyone in the wake of COVID-19,” Matuke said.

He said some of them were of no fixed abode and were always running away from law enforcement agents while others were doing odd jobs which are no longer available because of COVID-19.

South Africa last week extended its lockdown period by two more weeks from the previous three weeks. Facilities had already been put in place in Beitbridge where the returnees will be isolated and tested for COVID-19.

Matuke said he would be touring facilities that had been set to host the country’s citizens that had chosen to return home from neighboring countries. “Government and its partners will also be providing for them in terms of food and other provisions,” he said.

The Zimbabwean Embassy in Namibia has also requested all Zimbabwean nationals who have been affected by the lockdown and would want to return home to register their names on Monday and Tuesday.

These, however, are required to have valid travelling documents and national identity cards will meet their own travelling costs.

A notice from the embassy’s Consular Department said those who wanted to travel would go through Zambia where there was a possibility of a 14-day quarantine at the Zambian border before proceeding to Zimbabwe. “There will also be a mandatory 21-day quarantine upon arrival in Zimbabwe,” the notice said.

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