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Zimbabwe under new lockdown as COVID-19 infections spike

By , Sub Saharan Africa Business, Tech, News and Development Journalist
Zimbabwe , 06 Jan 2021

Zimbabwe has instituted a second lockdown in response to spiralling COVID-19 infections, although the new movement and business operating restriction measures exclude telecommunications and FinTech companies.

According to the second lockdown, effective 5 January 2021, there is a curfew from 6pm to 6am, and restricted business operations for essential services between 8am and 3pm.

The lockdown will be in place for 30 days, officials say.

Telecommunications companies fall into the essential services category alongside banks, money transfer agencies and mobile money companies, while manufacturing, mining and agriculture sectors are also exempt from the restrictions.

“We have engineers and other personnel who have to be on the ground. For these we are preparing the exemption letters,” said an operations manager at a local telecommunications firm, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Zimbabwe’s largest telco Econet told its subscribers that although its service shops will be “physically closed for the next 30 days,” the outlets will “only open for a few select essential services such as international remittances” run in partnership with World Remit, Cassava and others.

“The rest of the other services offered through our shops will be available via digital service platforms.” These include WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter and Email.

First Capital Bank Zimbabwe will keep some branches open, but is encouraging its depositors to use “alternate banking channels” such as internet banking, mobile banking, ATMs and Point of Sale, among others.

Stanbic Zimbabwe, a unit of Standard Bank, has zero-rated its mobile application and internet banking. This means that depositors now do not need data to access its services on online platforms accessed through the Econet network.

COVID-19 cases have continued to rise in Zimbabwe, from 14000 on 31 December 2020 to 15 800 by 4 January 2021. Deaths have risen from 369 to 384 over the same period, according to data from the Ministry of Health.

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