Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Friday extended a lockdown aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19 by two more weeks to May 17.
The lockdown, which started on March 30, was due to end Sunday, but Mnangagwa pointed out that confirmed COVID-19 cases were on the rise, hence the need for an extension. He said the informal sector will remain closed, while industry will reopen under supervision during the lockdown. Gatherings of more than 50 people remain prohibited, Mnangagwa said.
To date, Zimbabwe has 40 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including four deaths and five recoveries. Furthermore, Mnangagwa announced an 18-billion-Zimbabwean-dollar (about 720 million U.S. dollars) economic stimulus package to scale up industrial production and to cushion small-scale industry and vulnerable groups from the adverse effects of the coronavirus pandemic.
“The package is based on our aspiration to meet the diverse requirements of the national economy, that includes capacitating the micro, small to medium enterprises (SMEs) and those in the informal sector, who have borne the brunt of the lockdown,” Mnangagwa said.
The government also availed a 2.4-billion-Zimbabwean-dollar food grant for poor households and a 500-million-Zimbabwean-dollar fund for SMEs.
“The lack of income for small businesses has resulted in an increased number of vulnerable households. This situation has been worsened by the drought, which has led to food deficits that need imports to bridge the gap,” Mnangagwa said.
Mnangagwa said he was optimistic that the stimulus package will relaunch the economy on a strong trajectory, characterized by higher productivity and supportive of job retention and creation.
In addition, Mnangagwa said the country is not yet in a position to reopen schools and colleges, adding that a number of conditions must be met to guarantee the safety of students and teachers.