The chaos is being blamed on Zimbabwe's rampant inflation rate, which has led to widespread cash shortages.

The central bank has tried to counter the impact by regularly introducing new currency denominations, 27 this year alone.

New notes for 100 million, 50 million and 10 million Zimbabwean dollars are due to be rolled out and the central bank is set to revise upwards the limit on withdrawals - to 50 million Zimbabwe dollars for individuals and 100 million for company account holders.

Less than a month ago, the central bank introduced one million, 500,000 and 100,000 Zimbabwean dollar notes.

Doctors' petition

Police on Wednesday also dispersed doctors and nurses who tried to hand in a petition against the collapse of the health system.

The protesters were complaining of the circumstances under which they are trying to fight a cholera outbreak.

"We are forced to work without basic health institutional needs like drugs, adequate water and sanitation, safe clothing gear, medical equipment and basic support services," they said in a protest letter, signed by Amon Siveregi, chairman of Zimbabwe Doctors' Association.

In their petition, the doctors and nurses said they were struggling to feed their families amid an inflation rate officially estimated at 231 million per cent.

Cholera outbreak

The death toll from a cholera outbreak has risen to 565, making it the most deadly instance of the disease seen in Zimbabwe , the UN said on Wednesday.

The UN humanitarian affairs office said 12,546 people were suspected of being infected with the disease.

In response to calls for government to declare a national health emergency, Edwin Muguti, the deputy health minister, said on Wednesday: "The situation is under control. There is no need to declare it."

However, many reports accuse Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe's president, of silencing health workers and preventing access to death records, thus reducing the official mortality figures.

Many public hospitals have closed their wards due to drug and equipment shortages, and doctors and nurses have been pressing for better pay.

Cholera is spread by water containing human faeces. Zimbabwe's sewerage system has broken down in many areas and access to clean water is proving increasingly difficult to come by, if at all accessible, in the past two weeks.

As the rainy season approaches the disease may become more widespread. Rain is already moving raw sewage into water supplies in Harare.