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Zimbabwe eases coronavirus lockdown to allow diaspora remittances flow

And for farmers to transport their goods to market.
An election poster for Emmerson Mnangagwa sits on a lampost in Harare, Zimbabwe. Image: Waldo Swiegers/Bloomberg

Zimbabwe will allow citizens to access remittances from the diaspora and permit farmers to take their produce to the market, easing a three-week coronavirus lockdown that analysts fear could push the struggling economy to the brink of collapse.

Many citizens in the southern African nation, which has recorded one death from nine cases, rely on money from relatives in the diaspora but the lockdown had closed a major source of income.

Zimbabwe, which faces its worst economic crisis in a decade, marked by soaring inflation, shortages of foreign currency, food and electricity, earned $635 million from diaspora remittances last year.

Central bank governor John Mangudya said in a statement on Monday money transfer agencies would be allowed to open three times a week from Tuesday but banks remained closed for any other transactions.

He said the decision was meant “to allow for the receipt of foreign currency remittances which cannot be transacted on any digital platform.”

President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who ordered the lockdown that started on March 30, said separately that farmers would be allowed to sell their produce at the markets starting Tuesday.

Farmers had complained that their produce was rotting on the farms, leaving them without a source of income while shops were running out of fresh vegetables.

The easing of the lockdown shows the limitations that most African governments face as they seek to balance the need to stop the spread of the new coronavirus and keeping the wheels of the economy turning.

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