Nqobile Tshili, Chronicle Reporter
THE Bulawayo City Council (BCC) has come up with a raft of measures that include suspending weekend flea markets (Khothama), limiting the number of people during burials to 30 and reducing vending stalls to curb the spread Covid-19.
The local authority has also urged Government to put the country on complete lockdown to minimise travelling as has been done in South Africa and other countries.
Three positive cases have been recorded in the country, one of them fatal, but Bulawayo has no confirmed cases as of now.
BCC’s drastic action follows Government’s decision to step up measures to decisively mitigate against Covid-19’s impact by banning public gatherings of more than 50 people and suspending this year’s Independence Day celebrations and the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair (ZITF), both scheduled for next month in Bulawayo
Last week on Thursday, President Mnangagwa also launched the Covid-19 National Preparedness and Response Plan and announced the closure of learning institutions.
At a Press briefing that was also attended by Bulawayo Town Clerk Mr Christopher Dube, council’s directors among other senior council employees, Bulawayo Mayor Councillor Solomon Mguni appealed for residents to minimise congregating and reiterated Government’s proclamation limiting the number of people at gatherings such as churches, funerals, weddings and meetings to less than 50 people.
Clr Mguni said a special full council meeting held on Wednesday agreed to adopt drastic but necessary measures to prevent the spread of the deadly virus that has killed more than 20 000 people, infecting over 400 000 worldwide.
“We meet today during a time of crisis for our city, for the nation and indeed for the rest of the world. As City of Bulawayo we have come up with the following preventive measures after the meeting of a special full council meeting yesterday to try and mitigate the spread of pandemic. One, suspension of weekend flea markets (Khothama) with immediate effect. The City recognises that while the weekend flea markets provide a source of revenue for the city’s informal traders, they also congregate large numbers of people increasing the vulnerability of resident spreading coronavirus to Bulawayo. At the present moment, the city of Bulawayo does not have a case,” said Clr Mguni.
“The city has made a decision to limit the number of mourners at a cemetery to a maximum of thirty (30) per family. The backfilling of graves will now be done by municipal staff and not members of the public.”
Clr Mguni said the municipality is urging Government to implement a complete lockdown as travelling increases the chances of people spreading the virus.
South Africa yesterday implemented a complete lockdown while neighbouring Botswana which is yet to record a Covid-19 case said a lockdown is imminent.
“While we are guided by the Government’s partial lockdown measures, we believe that taking a cue from our neighbours like South Africa who have imposed a 21-day lockdown. We believe that in the interest of preventing and mitigating the spread of this pandemic, it was in the best interest of the country not only Zimbabwe but the Sadc region that this be a Sadc lockdown,” said Clr Mguni.
“The lockdown can also be extended to an African continental lockdown. So that the Africa’s Centre for Disease Control (ACDC) can monitor this pandemic to maybe the end of April with the hope of completely dealing with this pandemic.”
The mayor said council is guided by Government’s position on the virus but will continue to plead with Government for a complete lockdown.
He said BCC has put in place measures on how council will be operating in case of a full lockdown, including providing essential services with a skeletal staff.
The mayor said council has communicated with local shops to minimise the number of customers entering their shops to maintain social distancing.
Council is also negotiating with vendors operating along 5th Avenue so that some of them can withdraw their services to maintain social distancing.
He said council was further engaging the transport sector to promote social distancing by reducing the number of people per vehicle displaying prevention measures.
“Bulawayo City Council will be scaling up Health and Hygiene education programmes to all stakeholders which include informal traders, travellers, shop operators and transporters. A hailer will go around sharing health messages for the public so as to empower the community of Bulawayo with information necessary for the protection against the global pandemic,” he said.
Clr Mguni said council is reducing the number of meetings and observing a one-meter social distance in all meeting venues.
He said pregnant female members of staff have been encouraged to take vacation leave prior to maternity leave as they are at high risk.
Clr Mguni said decongestion of the workplace to prevent exposure is underway and this shall be achieved through voluntary leave by those staff members with sufficient leave days and members of the public are encouraged to use alternative means of communication such as emails, phone calls and online payment platforms to contact municipal staff.
“Any staff member who is not feeling well with flu like symptoms should not report to work. They shall report their illness to their supervisors as per Council procedure,” said the mayor.
Bulawayo Town Clerk Mr Christopher Dube said all hands needs to be on deck in fighting the spread of coronavirus. [email protected]