Munyaradzi Musiiwa, Midlands Correspondent
NEARLY 100 returning Zimbabweans who were quarantined at different centres across the country as part of measures to control the spread of coronavirus have escaped, raising fears they could jeopardise efforts by Government to control the disease.
President Mnangagwa announced that as part of measures to control the spread of Covid-19 (coronavirus), returning residents, upon entry, will be subjected to a 21-day mandatory quarantine and would be tested on days one, eight and 21 to determine their Covid-19 status.
In an interview yesterday, National Police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi said as of yesterday, 99 returnees had escaped from different quarantine centres across the country. Zimbabwe has received close to 4 000 returnees mostly from South Africa and Botswana over the past few weeks. Asst Comm Nyathi, however, said some of those that escaped have since been arrested although he did not avail the numbers.
“I can confirm that 99 returnees have escaped from various quarantine centres across the country. However, some of them have been arrested. As police we have stepped up our patrols to ensure that returnees do not escape. We are working with other stakeholders such as the Ministry of Health and Child Care to ensure compliance. We also urge returnees to comply with the quarantine regulations,” he said.
Asst Comm Nyathi said police were also dealing with reports of rampant theft cases at quarantine centres.
“There are some people who had started stealing from fellow inmates in quarantine,” he added. Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Mr Nick Mangwana yesterday, on his official Twitter handle, said three returnees from South Africa absconded from Mary Mount Teachers’ College Quarantine Centre in Mutare and when police traced them at their given home addresses, they could not locate them. According to the Ministry of Health and Child Care, the number of positive Covid-19 cases the country has recorded over the past few weeks have been attributed to retuning citizens mostly from Botswana and South Africa. South Africa has been recording a rise in the number of Covid-19 cases and as of yesterday the country had more than 20 000 cases. The country is home to thousands of Zimbabweans.
In Midlands, five cases that have so far been recorded are returnees from Botswana who were quarantined at Gweru Polytechnic College.
Botswana has said it has started the process of contact tracing to determine if local residents who were in contact with those found to be positive upon entry in Zimbabwe were free from the virus.
Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage Minister Kazembe Kazembe told Sunday News yesterday that some of the escapees were from Plumtree and Masvingo. He said escaping from quarantine was a serious crime and was also in violation of the lockdown regulations.
“Police and health authorities are looking for those who escaped from quarantine. They committed a crime by violating the lockdown regulations,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Midlands Province has started testing for Covid-19 with a gene expert machine for deoxyribonucleic Acid (DNA) at Gweru Provincial Hospital (GPH). The testing started last week after the hospital received cartridges for testing. Minister of State for Midlands Provincial Affairs Cde Larry Mavima said the province would be testing returnees and deported Zimbabweans who are quarantined at various centres in the province.
“We are fortunate that we are now testing for Covid-19 at Gweru Provincial Hospital with a gene expert machine. So those that tested negative, we will test them again before releasing them to see if they have been exposed while in quarantine,” he said.