Zimbabwe will stop paying special allowances to civil servants that contract Covid-19 if they are not vaccinated, and will no longer provide subsidised transport to government workers who are yet to get the jab as it steps up its fight against vaccine hesitancy.
The state had since early last year been paying civil servants an allowance if they tested positive for coronavirus.
The southern African country started its mass Covid-19 vaccination programme in February, but only 649,843 people had received their second dose by Tuesday.
Zimbabwe aims to vaccinate at least 60 per cent of the population or 10 million people by year-end to achieve herd immunity.
After initially saying no one will be forced to take the vaccine, President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government has changed tack after uptake of Covid-19 jabs slowed due to vaccine hesitancy.
Owing to this, Zimbabwe's Cabinet on Tuesday agreed on a raft of measures to force civil servants to get vaccinated.
“All civil servants should be vaccinated and those that fall ill without having been vaccinated will not be entitled to the Covid-19 insurance,” Information minister Monica Mutsvangwa told journalists in Harare.
The government added that it will cut staff on duty to 25 per cent as they work on a two-week rotational basis in order to decongest office spaces, with vaccinated staff being given priority.
“All civil servants should be tested for Covid-19 at the commencement and end of the two-week rotation,” he said.
In an earlier circular, head of the Public Service Commission, Jonathan Wutawunashe, said all of Zimbabwe’s nearly 250,000 civil servants were frontline workers that they should all get Covid-19 vaccine jabs.
“All heads of ministries are directed to ensure that all civil servants under their jurisdiction should be vaccinated,” Mr Wutuwunashe said.
A third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, driven by the more infectious Delta variant, has seen more Zimbabweans scrambling to get vaccines.
Vaccination sites across the country are characterised by long queues as Zimbabweans begin to embrace the China-made vaccines approved by the government after initial scepticism.
The government has consistently rejected vaccines from Western countries claiming it does not have suitable storage facilities for the US-manufactured Johnson&Johnson vaccine.
In June, Zimbabwe turned down an invitation to draw down on its three million doses of Covid-19 vaccines from the COVAX facility.