GOVERNMENT has urged people to avoid unnecessary travel to South Africa until the neighbouring country is safe from coronavirus (Covid-19) to minimise the risk of exposure.
Seven South Africans have so far tested positive for the coronavirus, bringing the virus closer to home.
So far, no positive case of coronavirus has been recorded in Zimbabwe.
Globally more than 100 000 people have so far tested positive for Covid-19 which has killed more than 3 700 across worldwide.
The virus has been recorded in nine countries on the continent Senegal, Tunisia, Togo, Cameroon, Nigeria, Algeria, Morocco, South Africa and Egypt which has the highest number of cases and first death in Africa.
A number of travel-associated cases of coronavirus have been identified in other countries. Early this month, President Mnangagwa restricted international travel, especially outside Africa, while civil servants were banned from foreign trips as Government takes measures to minimise the risk of exposure to coronavirus.
Many Zimbabweans work in South Africa and thousands travel there for business.
Bulawayo Provincial Affairs Minister Cde Judith Ncube has since urged residents to avoid unnecessarily crossing the border to the neighbouring country in the face of reported cases in the neighbouring country.
“As Bulawayo we first have to observe that this coronavirus is there, it’s very real. We should take precautionary measures that have been laid down by the Ministry of Health and Child Care. We should wash our hands, avoid shaking hands among other things. We should also minimise on our travelling to the neighbouring country as part of measures to ensure that we remain safe from the virus. It is my prayer that the virus does not reach Zimbabwe,” said Minister Ncube.
She discouraged people from illegally crossing the border especially along Limpopo River as they will not be screened for the virus.
A report that was tabled in Parliament last week by chairperson of the Parliamentary Committee on Defence, Home Affairs and Security Services, Retired Brigadier-General Levi Mayihlome said a total of 16 187 had been arrested for illegal crossing into South Africa from January to June 2019.
The committee said this is a significant number and it can be quantified that on average 1 350 people are being arrested on a monthly basis for illegally crossing into South Africa.
The Immigration Department at Beitbridge Border Post told our sister paper Sunday News over the weekend there has not been any significant changes in the number of people leaving or entering the country.
The department said they were clearing an average of 6 500 travellers and 70 buses, both entries and exits daily.
It also encouraged travellers to adhere to screening procedures at the port of entry.
Zimbabwe Ambassador to South Africa David Hamadziripi said travellers should always use designated ports of entry as opposed to border jumping.
“In all circumstances whether there is an infection alert of this nature or under normal health conditions. We will always be against border jumping because that consists violations of laws for both Zimbabwe and South Africa. Those who intend to travel to South Africa should use the designated border posts,” said Mr Hamadziripi.
He urged calm among Zimbabweans living in South Africa.
Mr Hamadziripi implored them to follow news updates from authourities on the virus as the neighbouring country is dealing with the virus.
“South Africa has been issuing bulletins and information on the evolution of proved cases of infection but also measures that are being taken to prevent further cases. For Zimbabweans in the neighbouring country it is recommended that they actually follow the bulletins and advisories that are being issued by the South African competent authorities right from the Minister of Health himself and other agencies that are involved in this effort to contain the spread of the virus, presently they have announced seven cases,” said Ambassador Hamadziripi.
“There is no need to panic because certainly here in South Africa and I could say in Zimbabwe as well. The Governments are taking all the necessary measures to inform the public to take necessary measures to prevent the spread of any infection. So, there is no need for any panic. Otherwise if we panic, we upset the entire system and structures that are put in place to ensure the health of everyone.”
Meanwhile, In Bulawayo, rapid response teams have been activated to deal with the virus, with the city council run Thorngrove Infectious Diseases Hospital expected to handle suspected cases in the southern part of the country.
Council’s senior public relations officer Mrs Nesisa Mpofu said the municipality was working closely with Government departments among other stakeholders to ensure the region is to ready to handle any reported case.
“The city has a rapid response team responsible for following up reported incidents. Health education is offered during contact sessions with the travelers. Training on COVID-19 for health workers in the council has been conducted and this will be cascaded to other stakeholders. This is to ensure that all service providers are equipped with skills on screening of travellers to identify and separate likely from unlikely cases and effect appropriate management,” said Mrs Mpofu.