Photograph — The Economist

On Saturday, January 2, 2021, Zimbabwe’s government extended a nationwide curfew, banning gatherings alongside the closure of non-essential businesses for a month to curb a surge in coronavirus infections. This move is likely to hurt its already vulnerable economy. 

During a news conference, Constantino Chiwenga, the country’s Vice President who also doubles as Health Minister stated that “people must stay at home, save for buying food and medicines or transporting sick relatives.” 

According to Chiwenga, some of the tighter restrictions were effective immediately and included a 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew in addition to a ban on inter-city travel. But starting Tuesday, 5 January, 2021, non-essential businesses would also be suspended. 

In July 2020, during the presentation of Zimbabwe’s mid-term budget and economic review statement in the parliament, Nthuli Ncube, the country’s Finance and Economic Development Minister, mentioned that the country’s economy is projected to shrink by 4.5 percent in 2020 against the 3 percent earlier projected due to the negative impact of the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic. 

A report also shows that these figures could have been worse if the government didn’t provide a stimulus package of 18.2 billion Zimbabwe dollars (264 million U.S. dollars) to companies to cushion the harsh effects of the pandemic.

The pandemic came against the backdrop of multiple economic setbacks that were necessitated by an economic sanction and unfavorable climate conditions such as drought and a cyclone which created food insecurity, lowered energy supply and caused the country’s GDP to contract. Meanwhile, the agricultural sector remains the largest single source of export earnings, contributing about 40-45 percent of total exports in most years. 

Although borders have been shut down to interstate travels, air travels would still be allowed, with arrivals and returning residents being required to present negative COVID-19 certificates. This is bound to pose a great challenge for the landlocked country since nearly all trading activities with neighboring Zambia, Botswana, Mozambique and South Africa are carried out by road.

According to experts, the new restrictions will further affect Zimbabwe’s economy, creating a drop in economic activities, exports and travels. It would also invariably translate to a drop in cash circulation and lower foreign earnings.

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