Zimbabwe extends lockdown, again

STAFF WRITER

President Emmerson Mnangagwa extended a nationwide lockdown to fight the new coronavirus by two more weeks.

The southern African nation first announced a three-week lockdown in March before extending it by 14 days which were set to expire Sunday prior to the latest extension.

He announced an $18 billion (US$720 million) stimulus package for distressed companies many of which will be allowed to reopen on Monday as the lockdown further threatens an economy struggling with acute shortages of foreign currency and electricity.

This is just more than a quarter of this year’s national budget. Its set to also benefit smaller businesses which are hardest hit by the lockdown.

The president did not say how the package would be funded.

“The package is proportionate to the disruption the virus has caused to the national economy,” he said in a televised speech.

Informal markets, where the bulk of Zimbabweans eke a living, remain closed as the formal sector reopens on strict conditions that need to be met before reopening.

State owned Zupco will continue to be the sole public transport operator with private buses, commuter omnibuses and taxis’ operations still suspended.

He said consultations on reopening schools are still on-going while public gatherings including churches remain closed.

Health workers would not be taxed for the next six months to boost their earnings, the president said.

Zimbabwe has recorded 34 cases of the new coronavirus and four deaths so far.

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