CLOSE to 4 000 Zimbabweans are trooping back home from countries all over the world to escape lockdown-induced hardships and inconveniences in their adopted home countries, it has been learnt.
According to various official tallies, the numbers could be more.
However, there are fears the influx could lead to more imported cases of the coronavirus. About 2 000 returnees have been recorded since the lockdown began on March 30.
Overall, an estimated 3 000 and 500 citizens are expected from neighbouring South Africa and Mozambique, respectively, over the next few weeks.
Further, more than 200 Zimbabweans in China have expressed interest to be repatriated back home.
Embassies in countries such as South Africa and China have reportedly been inundated by requests from citizens asking to be assisted to come back home for various reasons.
An additional 1 400 nationals “marooned” in South Africa have since asked for food assistance from Government.
Zimbabweans who were working on cruise ships around the world also constitute a significant number of nationals who are retracing their footsteps.
In separate interviews, Deputy Minister of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Lovemore Matuke, and Foreign Affairs and International Trade Deputy Minister David Musabayana gave detailed breakdowns.
Said Deputy Minister Matuke: “So far, we have received 1 835 returning citizens during the lockdown period. We are expecting big numbers from South Africa, around 3 000. We are also expecting around 500 from Mozambique, these are people who worked on cruise ships. So there is going to be an influx of people coming in.”
Zimbabwe has over the past few weeks been receiving citizens from all over the world and placing them in quarantine centres across the country.
The first group that came from Botswana and was quarantined in Plumtree has already been released after mandatory testing and observation.
Deputy Minister Musabayana said Zimbabwean embassies have been flooded with requests for assistance.
“We have citizens who are facing challenges in foreign countries and they are going to our embassies where we offer them assistance with repatriation,” he said.
“We have those who worked in cruise ships that are also returning. There is one (cruise ship) that was supposed to dock in Beira this week (last week) but the ship did not have the rights to dock there. So they rerouted and will now possibly dock in South Africa, then we will be able to assist from there.
“Then we have about 200 people in China who have expressed their interest to come back home and the Government is working out the best way possible to evacuate them.”
He said the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Covid-19 was considering all options of assisting stranded locals in China.
“We are thinking of chartering a plane to bring them home. That issue is now before the taskforce together with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (and International Trade) to work out modalities on how those people can be evacuated. We have some (citizens) in South Africa who have registered for repatriation and the Government is working on how best they can come back home. Then we have about 1 600 who have registered for assistance in terms of food in South Africa and the Government is working on how we can assist those as well.”
The latest contingent, he added, arrived from Namibia sometime last week and are being quarantined in Victoria Falls. Government says it is ready to receive all returning citizens.
“In terms of preparedness and the budget, we are okay because we are using universities, schools and other educational facilities, which are owned by Government. What we need to plan for is the eventuality of schools being reopened, so we need to look around for alternative accommodation and that may cost us a bit. When they come we test them, provide accommodation, bedding and we also feed them. When they leave, Government pays for transportation to their destinations and we give them a small out-of-pocket allowance,” Deputy Minister Matuke said.
On Friday, President Mnangagwa reiterated that mandatory quarantine protocols will be maintained in line with regional and international best practice.
He said all returning residents and international travellers will be put on a 21-day mandatory quarantine with full testing on Day 1, Day 8 and Day 21.
“In our case, the lockdown has proved to be an effective strategy to curtail proliferation of the disease in the country. In addition, measures such as mandatory quarantine and isolation of all returnees have been key in achieving low figures. Due to the high rate of imported cases from returnees from the UK, we must scale up public awareness on the danger posed by our returnees from the UK and other hotspots.”
— Sunday Mail