Public Health Lock-down Order : Omicron Amendments
Following the appearance of a new variant of the SARS-Cov-2 virus, the Government announced further lock-down measures on Tuesday 30th November and gave them legal effect by enacting them in a statutory instrument yesterday. The new instrument (SI 267/2021 gazetted on 1st December ) can be accessed on the Veritas website [link] and so can a consolidated version of the Lock-down Order incorporating the latest changes [link].
Under the new measures all returning residents and visitors – i.e. everyone entering Zimbabwe – will have to undergo PCR testing even if they have been tested for COVID-19 elsewhere, and:
- If they are found to be negative they will be quarantined at their own expense for 10 days. They may be allowed to self-quarantine in premises approved by an enforcement officer (i.e. a police officer or a health official) acting on instructions from the Ministry of Health.
- If they are found to be positive, i.e. to have the disease, they will be isolated at a place of isolation for 14 days in terms of section 8 of the Order. Places of isolation are sites identified or approved by the Minister of Health and Child Care in terms of section 7 of SI 77 of 2020.
The curfew which was in effect from 10 p.m. to 5:30 a.m. will now be imposed from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m.
The curfew does not apply to the following persons:
- persons engaged in essential services as defined in section 2 of the Lock-down Order (though staff of supermarkets, food stores, financial institutions and courts have to observe the curfew)
- persons who are buying medicines or seeking medical assistance, or are assisting someone to whom they have a duty of care
- staff of foreign embassies, missions or agencies, and
- persons who can show exceptional or humanitarian grounds for leaving their homes.
[The above list is only approximate and may contain errors because the Lock-down Order, when it deals with persons who are not subject to curfew, is so convoluted it ties itself into knots.]
Businesses, other than those providing essential services, can be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily.
Points to note:
- Businesses whose licences specify more restricted hours – for example bottle stores – cannot open outside those restricted hours. The Lock-down Order does not allow businesses to remain open for longer than they would be allowed to do under any other law.
- Restaurants and night clubs are subject to the new opening hours so they must close at 7 p.m. every night.
Admission to Certain Premises
Customers are not allowed into restaurants, licensed premises and night clubs unless they show proof of that they have had two doses of a vaccine such as Sinovac, Sinopharm or Sputnik approved by the Ministry of Health (proof of full vaccination).
Duration of the new measures
It is not clear how long the new measures introduced by SI 267/2021 will remain in force. The SI states that they:
“are to be put in place for a period of fourteen days, subject to review at the end thereof”
which makes it uncertain whether they will remain in force after the 14th December. Probably not: if after the 14-day period the Vice-President responsible for Health and Child Care – and presumably it is he who will review the measures – decides to extend them, he will no doubt publish a fresh statutory instrument.
Revision of the Lock-down Order
The Lock-down Order has now been amended 37 times and, as we have said repeatedly, it has become impossible to understand. It needs to be revised completely, simplified and clarified. Even the government’s drafters seem to realise this, because the new SI enacts the new measures without formally amending the original Lock-down Order. The drafters would have faced an impossible task if they had tried to identify all the provisions that needed to be amended in order to implement the measures.
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