BILL WATCH 62/2021 - Extension of Lock-down

BILL WATCH 62/2021

[26th August 2021]

Public Health Lock-down Order : Extension of Lock-down

The thirty-third amendment to the Lock-down Order was published yesterday, the 25th August, in SI 220 of 2021, and can be accessed on the Veritas website [link].  Its effect is simply to extend the Level IV lock-down until the 7th September.  The special lock-downs imposed in Hurungwe, Kariba, Kwekwe and Makonde districts are also extended to the 7th September.

A consolidated version of the Lock-down Order, incorporating the latest amendment, can be accessed on the Veritas website [link].

Effect of the Extension

For the duration of the extended lock-down (that is, until the 7th September) the following measures are in force:

Curfew:  The curfew remains in force every night from 6:30 p.m. to 6 a.m.

Businesses, other than those providing an essential service, may open only from 8 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. daily.  People’s markets must also disperse by 3:30 p.m.

Intercity transport is prohibited throughout the country except for:

the carriage of staff, goods and equipment needed for essential services

the carriage of sick persons to hospitals and other health care providers

travel by foreign diplomats or by foreigners seeking assistance from their countries’ diplomatic missions

the transport of food, fuel, basic goods and medical supplies

the carriage of police officers, Defence Force personnel and public health officials, and

the carriage of staff, goods and equipment needed for the operation of tobacco auction floors.

Sports:  Medium and high-risk sporting events are prohibited, except for international fixtures.

Schools, colleges, universities and polytechnics are closed, except for:

institutions providing on-line or distance education, and

institutions providing medical training or research useful in combating COVID-19.

Educational institutions may open for the purposes of conducting public examinations, in accordance with circulars issued by the Ministries responsible for the institutions concerned.

[The latest amendment does not mention the reopening of schools, which Cabinet announced yesterday;  we shall deal with this below.]

Funerals:  No more than 30 people may attend a funeral.

Courts

Yesterday, in Practice Direction 9 of 2021 [link], the Chief Justice announced that:

Court papers can be filed in all courts in accordance with applicable rules of court.

Until the 6th September the superior courts (namely the Constitutional Court, the Supreme Court, the High Court, the Labour Court and the Administrative Court) will sit for the hearing of urgent cases and bail matters only.

Magistrates courts will sit as normal, subject to what is said below.

Cases remanded or postponed between the 29th July and the 24th August are deemed to have been automatically remanded or postponed to the dates set out in Practice Direction 8 of 2021 [link].

Members of the public who have no business in court are not allowed into court premises.

Litigants and their lawyers, as well as witnesses and journalists, are allowed into court premises, subject to their wearing face-masks, maintaining social distancing and subjecting themselves to temperature checks and having their hands sanitised.

Measures Announced by Cabinet but Not Yet
Enacted in Legislation

Other measures announced by the Cabinet have not yet been given legal effect:

Opening of schools:  Cabinet announced at yesterday’s meeting that schools would reopen:

on Monday the 30th August for examination classes, and

a week later, on the 6th September for non-examination classes.

As we said above, most educational institutions are legally obliged to remain closed except for the purpose of holding public examinations (this is in terms of section 4(1)(e) of the Lock-down Order) so if schools are to reopen legally, the Order will have to be amended.

Opening of restaurants:  Also at yesterday’s meeting the Cabinet announced that restaurants would be allowed to re-open for sit-in patrons who are fully vaccinated, subject to the production of vaccination cards and strict adherence to COVID-19 protocols.  It is not clear from this announcement whether restaurants will be allowed to open to their full capacity, or what their opening hours will be – will they have to close at 3:30 p.m.?  These points should be clarified as soon as possible.

Opening of churches:  At its meeting on the 11th August, Cabinet announced that churches could allow congregants who had received two vaccine doses to attend services, so long as “all Ministry of Health and Child Care and WHO protocols are adhered to”.  As we pointed out in our Bill Watch 60/2021 of the 12th August, this brief announcement left some important points unclear, in particular:

How many congregants can attend a church service?

What exactly are the protocols that must be adhered to?

These points have yet to be clarified.

Opening of Victoria Falls and Kazungula Border Posts:  Cabinet agreed on the 27th July that the border posts at Victoria Falls and Kazungula would be opened to tourists who were fully vaccinated.  There is nothing to this effect in the latest amendments.

Comments

The latest amendments to the Lock-down Order are defective because they do not give legal effect to several important measures that have been put into practice after being announced by Cabinet .  The reopening of churches and restaurants, in particular, are not covered by the Order so congregants who attend church services and customers who have meals in restaurants are breaking the law.  It is not enough to say that they are not going to be arrested or prosecuted:  the fact that the law prohibits what people are actually allowed to do brings the law into disrepute and may encourage them to commit further breaches of the law.  The Lock-down Order should be amended as soon as possible to give effect to all Cabinet’s announcements on relaxing the lock-down.

In fact, as we have pointed out several times, the Order should not just be amended but should be completely revised, simplified and reissued.  It has been amended 33 times already and has become almost impossible to understand.  A law that cannot be understood is a bad law which should not remain on the statute book.

 

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