Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa speaks at a press conference in Harare, Zimbabwe, March 17, 2020. In an update to the nation Tuesday, Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa declared COVID-19 a national disaster, saying the country had escalated its national response to the virus after neighboring countries in the region had reported cases. (Photo by Shaun Jusa/Xinhua)
HARARE, March 17 (Xinhua) -- Zimbabwe has postponed its 40th independence anniversary celebrations scheduled for April 18, as well as other public gatherings and international sporting events as part of efforts to contain the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19).
In an update to the nation Tuesday, Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa declared COVID-19 a national disaster, saying the country had escalated its national response to the virus after neighboring countries in the region had reported cases.
Zimbabwe has so far not recorded any confirmed case of COVID-19.
The country's premier trade showcase, the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair, national independence celebrations and pending international sporting fixtures had been postponed until the threat of corona virus recedes, Mnangagwa said.
The independence celebrations were due to be held in the second largest city of Bulawayo, the first time since independence from Britain 1980 for the event to be held outside the capital Harare.
Government also suspended gatherings of more than 100 people, including those for purposes of worship and weddings for the next 60 days after which the suspension will be reviewed.
"Government has decided to postpone, curtail or cancel public events, gatherings and activities. All these activities will resume as soon as we are satisfied that our nation is no longer at risk," Mnangagwa said.
He said Zimbabwe will in the meantime keep its main points of entry open while screening and testing of visitors into the country will be intensified.
Schools, due to close in two weeks time, will also remain open unless the situation necessitates early closure.
He said as part of measures to avoid spread of the disease, the country was encouraging travelers from high risk countries to postpone visiting the country for the next 30 days from March 20, 2020.
The country was also discouraging Zimbabweans from traveling to, through and from high risk countries during the same period, he said.
"We must continue to heighten our vigilance, always acting with care, consideration and compassion.
"Should the situation escalate, government will not hesitate to take further and even more drastic measures for our common good," Mnangagwa said.