Chiefs raise Covid-19 alarm

The Chronicle

Nqobile Tshili, Chronicle Reporter

CHIEFS have raised alarm over Zimbabweans sneaking into communities from neighbouring countries where they are based amid strong suspicions that some of them are border jumpers who are evading Covid-19 screening at the borders.

The traditional leaders said if border jumping is not curbed, it will result in the spike in Covid-19 cases that led to increased deaths during last year’s Christmas and New Year holidays.

The country was hit by the second wave of Covid-19 last January which delayed the opening of schools.

Zimbabwe like the rest of the world is under threat from the fourth wave of Covid-19 after a new variant, Omicron which is a highly mutated variant, was detected in the country.

The festive season is associated with merry-making and big gatherings which have been found to be super spreaders of the pandemic.

Government has since advised people to avoid unnecessary travel as part of measures to curb the spread of the pandemic.

The screening for Covid-19 has been tightened at the country’s borders to minimise exposure to the pandemic as Zimbabweans working in neighbouring  countries return home to join their families during the festivities.

All the returning citizens and visitors have to be quarantined for 10 days even if they test negative to Covid-19.

The returnees undergo PCR testing even if they have their Covid-19 certificates. 

Matabeleland South Provincial Council of Chiefs chairperson Chief Masendu said despite the set regulations, it was worrying that some border jumpers are sneaking into communities.

“We are seeing that people have started arriving in the communities and this might contribute to what we witnessed last year.

  A  number of people are illegally coming into the country from Botswana and South Africa.

We know that many people who are based outside the country want to visit their families and friends but what is more important is to save lives.

People should not endanger their lives and that of their families by evading screening at the borders,” said Chief Masendu.

He said those that intended to visit their families should undergo screening and follow all Government procedures meant to curb the spread of the pandemic.

Chief Nyangazonke from Matobo said preserving lives was more important than enjoying the festivities.

He said he has also observed that some citizens based in diaspora were already in the communities suggesting they evaded screening.

“We know that it’s important for those working outside the country to visit their families especially during such holidays but we have a challenge of this pandemic.

Government has come up with measures meant to protect the people including families and relatives of those working outside the country hence the need for everyone to observe these measures,” he said.

Chief Nyangazonke said members of the public should strictly adhere to Covid-19 preventive measures  during the festive season to minimise exposure.

“We need to practice social distancing, screen for Covid-19 and wash our hands.

We need to conscientise people on the need to observe regulations. I think police manning roadblocks should also conscientise people about Covid-19.

We just have to work together to fight this pandemic which does not discriminate as it continues to claim lives,” said Chief Nyangazonke.

Chief Mathema from Gwanda, Matabeleland South said it is difficult to tell people not to return home to their families but what was important was to ensure the safety of everyone.

He said families were putting themselves at risk as they could not report their relatives who might have sneaked back into the country and avoided screening.

National police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi said while the country’s borders may be porous, there is a need for communities to protect themselves from border jumpers. 

“Anyone who violates the regulations that are being enforced by Government will be arrested.

There is no going back in arresting people who are border jumping.

We urge the traditional leaders to report to the police those who are sneaking into communities thereby evading screening at the borders. These people are potential Covid-19 super spreaders,” said Asst Comm Nyathi.

He said police are also working with officials from the Ministry of Health and Child Care to ensure that those who have been placed in isolation do not escape.

Recently police reported that several people who returned from South Africa and were placed in isolation as they were Covid-19 positive, escaped in Beitbridge.

The neighbouring country is also recording a spike in cases since it detected the highly mutating Omicron variant.

“People who have been found to be Covid-19 positive should prioritise the health and safety of other people,” said Asst Comm Nyathi.

Early this week, Beitbridge District Medical Officer (DMO), Dr Lenos Samhere told our Beitbridge Bureau that although they had realigned their screening processes with the new regulations, they were worried at the level of absconding at the local quarantine centre.

“We are screening and testing travellers as required, but you will note that there is very low volume of traffic coming through the border,” said Dr Samhere.–@nqotshili

Article Source: The Chronicle

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