Zimbabwe on Friday extended the duration of nationwide lockdown measures until Feb. 15 to curtail the further spread of the novel coronavirus.
Vice President Constantino Chiwenga delivered a live address on the public Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) on the latest extension of the level-four lockdown.
Chiwenga, who is also the country's health minister, made the address at the country's Health Ministry in the capital Harare amid a spike in coronavirus-related deaths and rising infections.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa had imposed a 30-day national lockdown on Jan. 5 after a spike in COVID-19 cases in the country.
Zimbabwe has reported 32,646 coronavirus cases so far and 1,160 deaths due to COVID-19, along with 24,419 recoveries from the disease.
"We have a likelihood of new strains and variants circulating. These strains are more transmissible and infectious. We are doing genomic sequencing to see if these strains are in our environment. Results will be published as soon as we have them," said Chiwenga.
Chiwenga also noted that the current lockdown had stabilized the situation amid a fall in the number of infections.
The lockdown came after four government ministers died of the coronavirus.
In July last year, Perence Shiri, Zimbabwe's agriculture minister, died of COVID-19.
On Jan. 15, Ellen Gwaradzimba, Zimbabwe's minister for provincial affairs for Manicaland province, also succumbed to coronavirus, followed in the same week by Morton Malianga, the country's deputy finance minister in the 1980s.
Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Trade Sibusiso Busi Moyo also succumbed to coronavirus on Jan. 20.
Two days later, 81-year-old top historian and former Education Minister Aeneas Chigwedere died due to the virus as well.
Transport Minister Joel Biggie Matiza was also killed by COVID-19 soon before Chigwedere.