HARARE (Reuters) – Zimbabwe on Monday eased a coronavirus lockdown and overnight curfew imposed in January by allowing businesses to fully re-open after the rate of new infections slowed in the last two weeks.
The news comes a day after neighbouring country South Africa eased restrictions to allow liquor sales under normal trading time and shortened curfew hours from midnight to 4 a.m., as cases in the country fell after a new coronavirus variant led to widespread infections in December and January.
Infections in Zimbabwe peaked in January, forcing the government to close or limit most businesses as well as curb the movement of people.
In the past 48 hours, Zimbabwe has recorded only 45 new infections and no COVID-19 related death.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa said in a televised address Zimbabweans could now travel without restrictions, informal businesses would re-open and companies would resort to normal business hours. An overnight curfew would start from 10 p.m. to 5:30 a.m.
But restaurants would open for take-away only, while nightclubs and gyms remain closed.
Mnangagwa said schools, which have remained closed since mid December, should get ready to re-open but did not give a date.
The government last month began COVID-19 vaccinations after receiving a donation of 200,000 doses from the China National Pharmaceutical Group (Sinopharm). Zimbabwe has purchased 600,000 more doses that it expects this month from Sinopharm.
Zimbabwe has to date reported 36,089 COVID-19 cases and 1,463 deaths, a majority of which have been recorded this year.
(Reporting by MacDonald Dzirutwe, Editing by William Maclean)