Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Monday declared the country’s borders closed for both inbound and outbound traffic except cargo and returning residents in an unprecedented step to halt the spread of the coronavirus.

Mnangagwa also announced that bars, gymnasiums, swimming pools and movie houses were being shut down until further notice, on the same day that the country declared its first coronavirus death.

He said the measures were with immediate effect.

“While our borders remain open to essential traffic, both in the interests of our economy and that of corresponding economies in our region, we have decided to ban non-essential travel and traffic, both inbound or outbound except for the movement of cargo. The government will close all our borders to human traffic. This, however, will not affect returning residents,” Mnangagwa said in an address to the nation.

Returning residents “will be subjected to strict screening procedures”, Mnangagwa said, which includes “a rigorous enforcement of a one-day self-quarantine which must not be breached for whatever reason.”

Mnangagwa said his government was discouraging non-essential travel within the country, adding that social visits to relatives and friends should be avoided.

He went on: “With immediate effect, the government has put a blanket ban on gatherings around nightclubs, bars, beerhalls, movie houses, swimming pools, gymnasiums and sporting activities until further notice.”

Mnangagwa, noticeably leaving out church gatherings, said the measures “will be hard on all of us, but such tough measures will become necessary for our collective safety.”

Hospital visits will be restricted to once a day, and only one visitor would be allowed per patient, he said.

Gatherings will only be allowed for 50 or less people, he said, contradicting new regulations published on Monday which prohibit “all gatherings for whatever purpose.”

Mnangagwa said informal markets would remain open, but health personnel would be deployed to conduct random screening while public transport vehicles had to undergo “occasional decontamination.”

Mnangagwa gave no pay concession to doctors and nurses who have demanded a salary review, but pledged more material support.

“I’m aware of concerns by health personal who are in the frontline of fighting this pandemic. These great men and women are the heroes and heroines of our nation. They continue to deliver services at great personal risk, they continue to save lives and they deserve our support,” he said.

“They must be rewarded. Above all, we must make their great-risk medical chores both safer and less onerous. I have directed the release of additional funding towards procurement of safety clothing.”

He said more and more centres were being designated and equipped to enhance the country’s overall preparedness for an explosion of coronavirus cases, adding: “Now is the time to show resolve, commitment and sacrifice. Together, we pull through this challenge.”

It was announced earlier Monday that one of the two reported coronavirus cases in the country had succumbed to the disease.

Thirty-year-old Zororo Makamba, a broadcaster and son of Telecel founder James Makamba, died at the Wilkins Hospital in Harare – three days after he was admitted.

Authorities say the other patient, who was announced on March 20, remains in self-isolation at home in Victoria Falls.

Further to this, a video has been doing rounds showing the Beitbridge border after the closure.

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