COVID-19

Zimbabwe tightens coronavirus lockdown in capital Harare

By Reuters 3 June 2020

epa08397267 A police officer wearing a face mask checks the travel permits of passengers about to board a bus in Harare, Zimbabwe, 02 May 2020. Zimbabwe's 14.5 million inhabitants are living through the 34th consecutive day of the nationwide lockdown decreed by President Emmerson Mnangagwa. The president has further extended the lockdown by another two weeks until 17 May in a bid to curb the spread of the pandemic COVID-19 disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, which has so far killed four people in the African country. EPA-EFE/AARON UFUMELI

HARARE, June 2 (Reuters) - Zimbabwean troops and police on Tuesday tightened the coronavirus lockdown in the capital Harare, blocking many cars and buses from entering the central business district as cases of infections increased.

But the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) said President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government was trying to suppress protests over a worsening economy and to stop MDC supporters from gathering at the courts where the lawyer for its leader was due to appear after being arrested on Monday.

Coronavirus infections have more than tripled to 203 in the last few days. Mnangagwa had eased the lockdown since it was first imposed at the end of March.

On Tuesday, however, police and soldiers turned away many commuters and cars, including those with work letters, at check points leading into town except critical staff like health workers as well as state employees, witnesses said.

“Please note that it is not everyone who should be in the CBD (central business district),” the police said in a statement.

A Reuters witness saw a group of soldiers and police in downtown Harare ordering people to leave the city centre and shops to close.

By lunchtime businesses in downtown had shut, but in another part of town, where government offices are located, some businesses, including supermarkets and banks, were open.

The state-owned Herald newspaper, which reflects government thinking, published pictures on its website of people walking back home on foot.

There were no similar reports from other cities.

The MDC has accused the government of using curbs on movements to persecute its members and sees a political motive behind Monday intensifications of the lockdown.

“So if this is about Covid-19 why is it only happening in Harare? This appears to be more about politics than medicine or health,” MDC senator David Coltart wrote on Twitter. (Reporting by MacDonald Dzirutwe; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

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