Zimbabwe has reopened industry and commerce for the first time in over a month beginning March 4 as part of an eased 14-day extension of the national lockdown against the coronavirus.

Announcing the extension on Friday, Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa said rising coronavirus infections in the country demanded extending the lockdown, deemed as a best practice worldwide to reduce contagion of the pandemic.

President Mnangagwa, however, relaxed the lockdown measures to a level where formal business can operate, and people must wear face masks in public spaces. The businesses are required to conduct mandatory rapid diagnostic testing of all employees, sanitize work places in addition to ensuring that social distancing is observed.

“It is clear that our country is not in a position to reopen schools, colleges and universities. A number of health conditions must be met first to guarantee the safety to pupils, students and other workers in the education system,” he added.

The informal sector, where most people are employed, remains closed, except those in the agriculture and food supply chains. Churches, gyms, beer stores and other recreational facilities which are deemed high risk disease zones also remain closed.

Buses will be the only mode of transport for the travelling public with smaller buses (kombis) and taxis still not allowed to operate while intercity commuting is also still barred.

By May 2, Zimbabwe had recorded 34 positive coronavirus cases, five recoveries and four deaths.

President Mnangagwa also announced a ZWL$18 billion ($720m) economic rescue and stimulus package to help the nation respond to COVID-19. The funds, which are all locally mobilized, will be used to scale up production in industry, address the needs of small-scale industries sector and assist all those made vulnerable by the disease.

At least 21-one countries in sub-Sahara Africa have received COVID-19 emergency financial assistance totaling $8.1 billion from the International Monetary Fund but Zimbabwe has inexplicably been left out the financial window despite being in dire need of the funds.

On March 30, Zimbabwe introduced a total lockdown, but two weeks ago, the lockdown was downgraded, and certain food markets were allowed to reopen along with the mining industry, tobacco and manufacturing industries.

Zimbabwe joins Namibia and South Africa who all last week extended their lockdowns but eased them to allow industry to partially open.

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