THE Zimbabwe Republic Police is raking thousands of dollars in fines every day from Covid-19 lockdown violators amid revelations that as many as 2 000 people are being arrested on some days.
The government recently announced a 30-day lockdown with a 6pm to 6am curfew and closure of non-essential businesses in an effort to curb a surge in Covid-19 infections. Zimbabwe has recorded more than 20 000 confirmed cases with the death toll surpassing 500.
Experts worry the increase in Covid-19 confirmed cases could soon overwhelm state-run hospitals, with health professionals complaining that supplies of personal protective equipment are inadequate.
Statistics provided by the ZRP show that as many as 2 000 people are being arrested daily for violating lockdown regulations, generating amounts upwards of ZW$1 million in fines per day.
The fines for lockdown violations range between ZW$300 and ZW$500 and in most instances police demand cash from offenders.
“Meanwhile, police have intensified the enforcement of the Covid-19 lockdown regulations. On 11, January 2021, a total of 2 374 people were arrested throughout the country bringing the total cumulative arrests to 322 214 since the start of the Covid-19 regulations in March 2020,” statistics provided by the ZRP read in part.
Under the new lockdown measures, bars, bottle stores and restaurants are closed, church services are banned, funeral gatherings limited to 30 people while inter-city and inter-provincial travel has been limited to those classified as essential services.
In Bulawayo, the closure of bars and bottle stores has however birthed thriving underground beer markets with licensed liquor stores cited as the main suppliers.
Bulawayo police spokesperson Inspector Abednico Ncube warned offenders (underground beer markets) faced arrest and prosecution with no option of paying a fine.
“There is no option of paying a fine. You will have to appear in court and they will determine whether you pay a fine, get imprisoned or both,” Ncube warned those operating shebeens and their patrons.
Shebeens are popular in Bulawayo but health experts describe them as Covid-19 hotspots as there is no social distancing, sanitisation of hands and wearing of masks by patrons.
“A lot of shebeen operators are repeat offenders. Also, they and their patrons will be contravening the Covid-19 regulations and the curfew put in place by government,” Ncube added.
Under the Liquor Act, it is an offence to sell beer without a licence.
Meanwhile, acting Mpilo Hospital chief executive officer Solwayo Ngwenya appealed for community behavioural change in the fight against Covid-19 as he warned that supplies of personal protective equipment at the institution are fast depleting.
“We will soon run out of PPE’s and the community behaviour is very critical, it may impact on our running as a hospital,” Ngwenya said.
Reports show that 206 health personnel at Mpilo Hospital have tested positive for Covid-19 since March, 2020.
In a statement, Community Working Group on Health (CWGH) director Itai Rusike noted: “This (depletion of PPEs) would cripple the health delivery system’s ability to continue caring for the sick and putting and an end to the pandemic.”