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Lawyers listed among essential services

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Lawyers are separately listed among essential services and can travel to and attend any criminal or civil court hearing involving a client and can travel and meet clients and others when this is necessary to prepare for court appearances.

Lawyers have been relying on provisions listing all courts as essential services, with the exception of hearings for eviction, and their necessary involvement in court cases. This had caused confusion and the need for specific listing of lawyers.

However, Chief Justice Luke Malaba has ordered all courts to remain closed during the level four lockdown for non-essential purposes. They are open for remand and bail hearings, and for urgent applications.

Minister of Health and Child Care Vice President Constantino Chiwenga this week specifically listed lawyers in his 11th amendment to the consolidated lockdown regulations gazetted in August last year, as the 25th permitted essential service for the purpose of attending any court and “of travelling to or from any other place for purposes preparatory to or in connection with such attendance”.

Since public health regulations can only limit the constitutional rights of freedom of movement and freedom of assembly when necessary to combat the spread of a serious infectious disease, such as Covid-19, lawyers, like everyone else, are permitted to work from home and hold virtual or telephone meetings with whoever they wish.

Under level four lockdown, essential services, which include farming and coal mining, are permitted to operate and their staff to travel to and from work, along with all other mining and all manufacturing. Staff can also travel to and from work during the curfew if necessary, but not for any purpose.

However, entities and their staff in the essential services and permitted businesses still have to obey other lockdown rules and regulations such as wearing of masks, social distancing and temperature scanning when travelling and assembling,

Industry and Commerce Minister Dr Sekai Nzenza has stressed that manufacturers and the parts of commerce, basically supermarkets, food shops and markets, and pharmacies, permitted to operate had to obey all health restrictions, including restrictions on opening hours where these were set.

“We are encouraging industry and commerce to abide by the relevant statutory instruments reinforcing the responsibility on all essential sectors to ensure adequate protection of employees,” said Minister Nzenza.

On the general outlook on adherence to the lockdown, the Minister said she had been getting updates from all sectors and felt the lockdown was going smoothly.

“There is close collaboration with the Ministry of Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage and so far we have not registered companies not adhering. The spot checks being done by Home Affairs in collaboration with the Health Ministry are working well with very minor incidences of not maintaining social distances in shops.

“We are pleased with the effectiveness of the road blocks in controlling both motor vehicle and human traffic,” she said.

In compliance with World Health Organisation protocols of social distancing, the Government has also ordered most ministries to have just 30 percent of their staff on duty at any one time with the remainder staying and working from home, but remaining on standby should they need to be called in to be present at workstations.

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