Vusumuzi Dube and Robin Muchetu, Sunday News Reporters
THE Government is considering re-opening land borders to the general public in time for the festive holidays as the country has officially gone past the Covid-19 third wave and continues to see a decline in new cases and deaths.
The land borders were closed to the general public intending to travel outside the country when the pandemic started in March last year. Only selected groups like returning residents, work and permit holders in neighbouring countries were allowed through the borders. Commercial cargo is also permitted to pass through the borders.
Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage Minister Cde Kazembe Kazembe told Sunday News yesterday that the decision to open the country’s land borders will be done in due course, taking into consideration the progress in the country’s Covid-19 response. He said the National Covid-19 Taskforce would make appropriate recommendations to Cabinet before the dates of re-opening are announced.
“As you know there is a national taskforce tasked with dealing with such matters and as a Minister I cannot make a unilateral decision. However, if the taskforce sees it fit they will make their submissions. President Mnangagwa will then make a decision on that matter. However, judging from the prevailing situation chances are high that the borders might be opened soon,” he said.
Cde Kazembe said the decision will be reached after exploring all the necessary variables and making sure that the opening of the borders will not impact the country’s Covid-19 containment measures. Signs that borders might open are also evident as Government has continued to revamp the country’s main port of entry and exit-Beitbridge Border Post, sources said. President Mnangagwa is expected to officially open the new look border soon after the first phase of the project was completed.
The border is being revamped under a US$300 million modernisation programmme that will see the upgrading of the buildings, warehouses, roads, installing new weigh-bridges and a new main freight terminal building under phase one. The second and third phases will involve construction of new terminals for buses, light vehicles and pedestrians. There will also be construction of water and sewer reticulation infrastructure and 220 houses for border staff. Completion of the entire project will spur economic growth in terms of regional trade and development.
Meanwhile, the Government has declared that the Covid-19 third wave is officially over as the country continues to gain momentum in its fight against the pandemic. Zimbabwe has gone through the first, second and third waves of the disease. National Covid-19 taskforce coordinator Dr Agnes Mahomva told Sunday News that the third wave had been contained.
“The third wave, yes, we have controlled the third wave, there are no two ways about it. We are actually now urging everybody to continue being focused in order for us to make sure we are not hit by a fourth wave because if we are hit by a fourth wave it will really create a lot of challenges for us. The numbers are quite stable, we are very happy. It simply means the measures that we have been implementing as a Government and our stakeholders including communities are working.
“However, we really would like to continue encouraging communities and individuals to please continue to adhere to those prevention measures. That is the reason we are succeeding, if we stop, if we are complacent, the numbers will automatically begin to go up because we still have cases, a few cases can actually spiral out of control.”
Asked on the management of cases in schools following reports of several cases, Dr Mahomva said cases were significantly low.
“Covid-19 in schools, yes, that was a bit of a concern for us but the good news is that all of the cases that have been identified in schools either do not have any symptoms whatsoever or they have mild symptoms. It really speaks big volumes to the standard operating procedures and guidelines that we worked on in the previous outbreaks and strengthened and hence we were able to identify cases and were able to make sure that they were either isolated and those who have been in contact with Covid-19 positive people quarantined in those facilities,” she added.
According to the latest Covid-19 statistics by the Ministry of Child and Care, the country has continued to record a decrease in the number of cases while the number of those being vaccinated also increased with almost half of the 18 years old and above population having received their first dose of Covid-19 vaccines. As of Friday, the country recorded 208 new cases and one death which was recorded in Harare.
There were 382 new recoveries and the National Recovery Rate rose to 94 percent. In terms of vaccination, a total of 3 097 391 people have received their first Covid-19 jabs while 2 289 213 have got their second doses.
“As of 30 September there were 94 hospitalised cases: New admissions 11, asymptomatic five, mild to moderate 62, severe 21 and six in Intensive Care Units,” said the Ministry of Health and Child Care in its daily update.