Zimbabwe has postponed the reopening of schools by a month, to late July, so that they are adequately prepared to deal with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Schools were shut down a week before the closing date of the last term, following the outbreak of the pandemic in the country on March 20.

The government had initially proposed a phased re-opening of schools starting with examination classes but teacher unions have vehemently opposed the “rushed” opening of schools before adequate preventive and safety measures are in place to avoid further spread of the coronavirus.

Addressing a media briefing on Tuesday, Information Minister Monica Mutsvangwa said schools will now open on July 28, not pn June 29 as initially proposed.

The decision was made to “allow the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education to mobilize for the provision of adequate resources,” Mutsvangwa said.

She said June 2020 public examinations will proceed as scheduled from June 29 to July 22. Among others, teachers have called for provision of adequate personal protective equipment and sanitation facilities in schools before they can reopen.

Mutsvangwa said a total of 5,267 alternative quarantine centers had been identified to house returning residents so that all schools that were holding the returnees could be freed and prepare for reopening.Some universities in the country resumed classes only for final-year students on Monday.

As Zimbabwe witnessed an increase in the number of imported COVID-19 cases in recent weeks, Mutsvangwa said, the cabinet has agreed that every person passing through the country should have a COVID-19 free certificate and that they be subjected to further testing upon arrival in Zimbabwe.

To prevent people from fleeing from quarantine centers, the cabinet has also agreed that their identification/travel documents be taken from them upon arrival and returned to them at the end of the quarantine period, the minister said.

Zimbabwe has witnessed an increasing number of people escaping from quarantine centers, amid accusations by some of the people quarantined of poor conditions in the centers.

Zimbabwe’s number of confirmed COVID-19 cases, at 147 at the end of May, rose to 314 on Tuesday. The number of deaths related to COVID-19 remains at four.

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