THE Government has extended permitted businesses to operate any time between 6.30am to 6.30pm as part of a delicate process to balance the economy and respond to the Covid-19 threat, Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister Monica Mutsvangwa announced last night.

Most businesses do not operate 12 hours a day, but the change allows those that want to close later than 4.30pm to do so and also allows those that want to open earlier than 8am to do so.

Despite the continued easing of restrictions, the Ad-hoc Inter Ministerial Taskforce on Covid-19 insisted that Zimbabwe was not out of the woods as yet in its fight against the pandemic which has so far infected 7 531 people and killed 224 as yesterday.

“As part of gradually opening the economy, Government has extended operation hours for the retail, wholesale and service businesses from 8am to 4.30pm to 6.30am – 6.30pm,” said Minister Mutsvangwa in her media brief after the Ad-hoc Inter Ministerial Taskforce on Covid-19 meeting.

“As we gradually open the economy, we need to remember that we are doing this, while taking all necessary precautions to fight the invisible enemy, Covid-19. The easing of lockdown restrictions is not an indication that we have defeated this pandemic, but we are a nation seeking to balance between our economic interests and the protection of life,” she said.

With the continued progress in reopening of the economy, which includes schools and the tourism sector, Minister Mutsvangwa said the Government was putting in place measures to contain the pandemic in the event that the infection curve rises.

The Government would continue to make preparations of health facilities so as to be able to cope with any potential spike in infections, she said.

Local businesses have responded to the Covid-19 contagion by rolling out production of locally-manufactured personal protection equipment and drugs. The University of Zimbabwe (UZ) and a local company have begun manufacturing swabs required for collecting Covid-19 samples. The swabs have been submitted to the Ministry of Health and Child Care and to Natpharm for quality assurance tests.

Minister Mutsvangwa said the Government was working on resumption of operations at Victoria Falls International Airport with staff training.

“The readiness of other ports of entry is under assessment and the nation will be advised,” she said.

Meanwhile, chief coordinator of the National Response to Covid-19 Dr Agnes Mahomva explained that a person can be declared negative if they are asymptomatic for two-weeks, and they do not necessarily need another test.

“When one is positive today, they do not necessarily need to get another test and another third test to be declared recovered if you are not symptomatic for 10 days, in our case its two weeks. If the two weeks are up without symptoms, you can go back and resume your work without testing.”

“As long as we have new cases, it is clear that we are not out of the woods yet. I am delighted that in the last Cabinet meeting, they specifically adopted a team of experts for guidance,” said Dr Mahomva.

Confederation of Zimbabwe Retailers Association president Mr Denford Mutashu commended the Government for extending operating hours, saying as business they would continue adhering to WHO guidelines of operating in a safe environment.

“Confederation of Zimbabwe Retailers applauds the President, Cabinet and entire Government for proving that it is indeed a listening Government.Our application for extension of operating hours and reopening of alcoholic beverages outlets was listened to. As business we will also continue to put in place measures that we operate in accordance to WHO guidelines and continue promoting the safety of our customers.”

Mr Mutashu said the extension of operating hours would go a long way in helping to revive the economy, buoyed by the forex auction system that has stabilised the exchange rate and restored confidence on pricing and productivity.

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