AFTER 30 months of compulsory wearing face masks to prevent the spread of Covid-19, eligible Zimbabweans can now move freely in public without them.
From March 30, 2020 when the first national lockdown was enforced, with it the mandate for everyone to wear a face mask when out in public or other crowded spaces to Tuesday, tens of thousands have been arrested and fined for ignoring the regulation. By Tuesday, the country had confirmed 256 565 cases of Covid-19 including 250 758 recoveries and 5 588 deaths.
It has been a long journey indeed. A long journey of fear, lockdowns, sickness, recovery and economic impact. However, with positive cases and fatalities declining sharply in recent weeks, vaccination gathering pace and some of our neighbours scrapping the need for their people to wear face masks, it was only a matter of time before the Government took a similar decision.
In her post-Cabinet briefing on Tuesday, Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister Monica Mutsvangwa said in light of the significant decline in Covid-19 cases, Cabinet had resolved to exempt those who are fully vaccinated from mandatory wearing of face masks in outdoor public.
“Noting the significant decrease in Covid-19 cases Cabinet resolved that those who have been fully vaccinated with the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommended vaccines are now exempted from mandatory wearing of face masks in outdoor public places, but should however, wear face masks in indoor public places and on public transport,” she said.
“Those who are fully vaccinated should carry their vaccination cards all the time.”
Minister Mutsvangwa said all provinces should continue intensifying Covid-19 vaccination activities so that the nation is able to achieve herd immunity.
The country is targeting to vaccinate 60 percent of the population, which is 10 million people, to achieve herd immunity.
Herd immunity is achieved when most people are immune to an infectious disease and this provides indirect protection even to those who are not immune.
Once achieved, herd immunity is likely to cause life to return to normal with less restrictions to prevent new infections.
Zimbabweans who are fully vaccinated against the disease are delighted to be taking their masks off after two-and-a-half years of struggling behind them.
Namibia was perhaps the first in southern Africa to scrap the mask in March. South Africa followed in June and Botswana early this month. Zambia was next in line on Monday and we followed on Tuesday.
We celebrate the freedom, happier at the same time that authorities have ordered the unvaccinated to continue wearing the face mask. This order is actually designed to protect the unvaccinated against the infection. Also, we see it as a stimulus from the Government for the unvaccinated to get the jab so they can not only be protected against the disease but also for them to recover their freedom.
To date, a total of 6 392 065 people have been vaccinated against Covid-19. Of this number about 4,7 million have had both doses while 960 000 have had their third. Therefore, we can say 4,7 million Zimbabweans have been fully vaccinated, indicating that we are still far away from reaching 10 million for the country to attain herd immunity.
As we always do, we implore our people to get the defence against the viral infection. Full vaccination — two doses and a third — provides that defence. Having highlighted that, our let us continue washing our hands with soapy, running water as well. It is not an offence for one to continue shunning crowds or wearing a face mask even if they are fully vaccinated.