By RUMBIDZAI NGWENYA in Harare

President Emmerson Mnangagwa says Zimbabwe is in the grips of the Omicron variant of COVID-19.

THE Zimbabwean government has deferred the opening of non-examination classes, citing the current high coronavirus infections in the country which have seen an average of 20 people dying everyday since last week.

This means that only those learners who are writing examinations will return to school as previously scheduled on January 3.

Addressing the nation yesterday, President Emmerson Mnangagwa said the country was now in the grip of the Omicron Covid variant, which meant that it was dicey to allow schools to open as previously planned.

“The New Year, 2022, begins under the persistent shadow of the global Covid-19 pandemic.

“The week closing the year has seen us record a total of 10 384 cases of infections and 142 deaths.

“These somber statistics translate to an average 1 483 new cases of infections, and 20 deaths each day,” Mnangagwa said while extending the current national lockdown by a further two weeks.

“The last three days alone were especially dire, with some 2 000 new infection cases and 30 deaths recorded daily.

“Clearly, our nation is in the grip of an Omicron variant-induced fourth wave, whose curve we continue to struggle to flatten.

“In view of this gloomy picture … the current level two national lockdown is extended by a further two weeks after which an appropriate review will be announced guided by a scientific appreciation of the obtaining situation,” Mnangagwa added.

“With the exception of examination classes which resume classes as announced by the responsible ministry, the general school calendar is hereby delayed until further notice.

“Examination classes exempt from this delay are, however, expected to strictly comply with preventive public health measures,” he also said.

Mnangagwa underlined that the economy would remain open, allaying fears of a possible re-introduction of a hard national lockdown.

He said businesses would continue to enjoy normal operating hours, with those companies that were able to allow some of their workers to work remotely being encouraged to do so.

“While business re-opens and resumes as normal, employers are expected to put in place all the essential preventive public health measures, including encouraging part of their workforce to operate from home, and through virtual platforms as practicable.

“As before and always, face masks must be worn by all our citizens in public places, spaces, gatherings and when patronising public transport,” Mnangagwa said.

He also re-iterated that authorities were finalising the rollout plan for third jabs to boost the immunity of those who were already vaccinated.

“Those of our citizens who are yet to get vaccinated should, without delay, proceed to get vaccinated at designated vaccination centres.

“Provincial task-force teams should be on hand to motivate and intensify the vaccination process.

“While government finalises measures to introduce and roll out a nationwide booster vaccination programme, we are all expected to adhere fully to World Health Organisation (WHO) measures on public health, including … wearing face masks at all times and in all public situations,” Mnangagwa added.

“With a strict adherence to these measures and precautions, our nation should be able to ride through this fourth wave, so we all return to, and resume our normal, productive lives that we all yearn for,” he also said.

This comes as nearly three million people in the country had received their two jabs, while about four million had received the first jabs a few weeks before Christmas.

Authorities were bidding to have vaccinated 10 million people by the end of 2021, to reach much-needed national herd immunity.

Despite missing this ambitious target, there is optimism that the nation will achieve that target in the first half of this year, on the back of a renewed vaccination push. – Daily News