BILL WATCH 46/2021
[4th July 2021]
Public Health Lock-down Order : Legalising the New Lock-down
On the 29th June the President announced what he called “additional enhanced Level 4 lockdown measures” which were to take immediate effect and last for two weeks. These measures have now been legalised by amendments made to the Lock-down Order by a new statutory instrument (SI 189 of 2021) published on the 30th June. The SI can be accessed on the Veritas website [link] and so can a consolidated version of the Lock-down Order incorporating all amendments [link].
In this Bill Watch we shall outline the latest amendments.
Duration of the New Lock-down
The new lock-down measures will last until the 13th July, which means they will end at midnight on Tuesday the 13th unless they are extended through another amendment to the Lock-down Order.
It may be noted incidentally that the localised lock-downs in Kwekwe, Kariba, Hurungwe and Makonde will end two days earlier, on the 11th July.
All inter-city transport is outlawed, except for:
- transport services engaged in the carrying staff for essential services
- carrying sick persons to hospital
- transporting staff of foreign embassies
- transporting water, food, fuel, basic goods and medical supplies, and
- carrying police, army personnel and other enforcement officers.
This is the effect of section 4(1)(f) of the Order following the repeal of section 4(9).
There is a nightly curfew from 6.30 p.m. until 6 a.m. Although the new amendments do not say so, the provisions of section 25 of the Order presumably apply to this curfew, which means that everyone must stay in their homes during curfew hours. People may leave their homes only for the following purposes:
- to travel no more than five kilometres in order to buy basic necessities at a supermarket or food store – but not at a “people’s market” – or to buy fuel or gas at a garage or service station.
- to buy medicine at a pharmacy within five kilometres from home, or to obtain medical assistance
- to go to work, in the case of people employed in an essential service, or
- to render assistance to relatives or other persons in one’s care.
Foreign diplomats are exempt from these restrictions.
All this is provided for in section 25(4) as read with section 4(1)(a)(ii) to (vi) of the Order.
According to the new section 26E(2)(e)(ii) of the Order, businesses other than those providing essential services may open only between the hours of 8 a.m. and 3.30 p.m. This does not give the full picture, however because:
- bottle-stores may open between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. (i.e. later than other businesses) according to section 26E(2)(h)(ii) of the Order
- bars attached to restaurants and lodges must close at 10 p.m. according to section 26E(2)(h)(iv) of the Order. This does not apply to hotel bars, whose closing hours are unclear. They may be allowed to remain open until the closing time specified in their licences (section 19C(2)(c) of the Order) or – more likely – must close at 3.30 p.m. like all other businesses. [This needs clarification.]
- beerhalls and night clubs are closed altogether (section 26E(2)(h)(i) of the Order)
- “people’s markets” may open earlier than 8 a.m., apparently, but people attending them must disperse by 3.30 p.m. (section 26E(2)(k) of the Order).
Decongestion of Businesses
According to section 26E(2)(e)(iii) III of the Order, the offices of businesses, other than those providing essential services, must be decongested so that no more than half (50 per cent) of the staff complement are present at any one time. This does not apply to the offices of the Government and local authorities, which must de-congest so that no more than 40 per cent are present.
Medium and high-risk sports cannot be played during the lock-down, except for certain international sporting events that were organised before the lock-down was announced (section 26E(2)(j) of the Order).
Since SI 189/2021 was published, the Sports and Recreation Commission [SRC] has announced that all sporting activities and events have been suspended for the duration of the lock-down, and this includes all sports previously categorised as low-risk. This suspension of low-risk sports is probably illegal, however necessary or desirable it may be. The SRC has no power to ban or suspend sporting activities and nor does the Minister responsible for sport. All the Minister of Sport can do is to classify sports as high-risk, medium-risk and low-risk (section 18(1) of the Lock-down Order) and in classifying them she must take into account WHO guidelines (see the definition of “low-risk sport” in section 16 of the Order). There is no suggestion that she has re-classified all low-risk sports as high- or medium-risk, and it is doubtful if she could legitimately do that.
Readers may have been bemused by all the section numbers we have cited in this bulletin. We cited them to give readers an idea of the difficulties that face anyone who tries to understand the Lock-down Order – the progressive stages of puzzlement, bafflement, frustration and then sheer mindless fury that assail a person who attempts such a task.
Even the authors do not understand it completely. The latest instrument amending the Order – SI 189/2021 – repeals section 27A despite its having been repealed more than two weeks ago by SI 170/2021.
We have said many times before that the Order must be re-issued in a simplified form so that ordinary people can understand it. In the three days to the 1st July 10,252 people were arrested for contravening the Order, and since the end of March the total number of people arrested has been a staggering 91,250. Thos people cannot all have been deliberately defying the law: most, we are sure, were unaware they were breaching the Order. The law must be simplified to avoid making so many people unwitting criminals and to prevent so many people endangering their health and the health of us all.