THE Government has stepped up efforts to de-congest all ports of entry and mounted roadblocks to screen for Covid-19 on all roads leading to borders.
This comes as the number of confirmed new Covid-19 cases surpassed 13 000 over the weekend,
Surveillance measures have also been heightened to ensure those manning security checkpoints uphold the highest ethical standards and will not be involved in corrupt tendencies.
Zimbabwe is aware of cases of the several new and more contagious variants of Covid-19 reported in other countries including South Africa, and consultations with neighbours have been ongoing as part of coordinated efforts to smooth operations at Beitbridge Border Post.
Both countries will screen travellers before they arrive at the border, ensuring that they have the correct health and other documents, to help border authorities to deal with controlled numbers of people with requisite and authentic papers who should be allowed to proceed across the Limpopo River.
Today, the Ad Hoc Inter-Ministerial Taskforce on Covid-19 is expected to hold a meeting and part of the agenda is schools reopening and Cyclone Chalane preparations which are compliant to Covid-19 mitigatory measures.
Vice chair of the taskforce, Professor Amon Murwira, said their message remained that people should not loosen their guard against the deadly virus.
“We want to de-congest the border area and we are hopeful the South Africans are playing their part,” he said.
“The idea is not to clog people at the borders. We want to make sure that those at the borders deal with manageable numbers and roadblocks have been set up on roads to the border areas.
“Authorities manning these areas should hold themselves to the highest ethical standards. What we are saying is that they must not be involved in corruption by allowing those who not supposed to proceed, to proceed,” said Prof Murwira.
He said people should continue to adhere to the prescribed preventative protocols.
“The statement we gave on December 24 remains: the message is to keep the vigilance the same way we have been doing to avoid a spike in Covid-19 cases,” said Professor Murwira.
Complacency has been creeping into society following the successes recorded in the fight against the global pandemic but President Mnangagwa and the World Health Organisation (WHO) have been clear virus still poses a dangerous threat.
Recently WHO country representative Dr Alex Gasasira applauded the Government of Zimbabwe for the way it had responded but warned the country is not yet out of the woods.
“We are at a time where we should be celebrating the festive season, but let us not forget the immediate challenge that is in our midst – Covid-19. Many countries in our region have been experiencing resurgence in Covid-19 cases. Zimbabwe is one of them,” said Dr Gasasira.
Of concern has been the issue of illegal transport operators and businesses who are not observing the prescribed containment measures.
Meanwhile, South Africa’s Health Department has temporarily extended the validity of the Covid-19 clearance certificates for commercial truck drivers from 14 days to one month to ease congestion.
The latest reprieve is contained in a letter from the Director-General of Health (South Africa), Dr Sabelo Sandile Buthelezi and addressed to the Director-General of Home Affairs, Dr Tommy Makhode.
“We have discussed the matter with the Minister of Health and he has granted permission that the testing be waived for the truck drivers as requested,” said Dr Buthelezi.
“We will however be writing to the Department of Transport to assist us to get the road freight industry to ensure that they take responsibility for the testing of their drivers before they undertake road trips.”
He said it was critical for all stakeholders to ensure that the transmission of Covid-19 through the borders was curbed, considering that the first case in South Africa was imported.
Among other things, the mandatory screening and testing for all travellers including truck drivers entering South Africa had been cited as one of the major bottlenecks that saw several travellers experiencing long delays.
Long delays at the border claimed the lives of five Zimbabweans in the past week while waiting to be cleared out of South Africa.
South African police said the causes of deaths were yet to be ascertained, although one of the dead had been confirmed to have had complications with his heart.
By the end of the day yesterday the movement of commercial traffic was gradually improving while that of light motor vehicles and pedestrians had returned to normal.
“Things are gradually returning to normal. After arriving at the on Tuesday last week, most of us managed to cross into Zimbabwe today (yesterday).
“The army and other provincial leaders, are now on the ground pushing traffic going either sides of the border,” said a truck driver, Mr Tsikai Manyanga.
Another driver, Mr Wilford Ganya said the latest move by the South African Health Department was a reprieve to most drivers.
“There is a new clearance system being implemented. Only trucks with complete customs documents are now allowed to join the queue to the border.
“You will note that the congestion was emanating from the fact that every truck was joining the queue even when the customs clearance processes were pending. This then created chaos and hence authorities moved in to clear the mess,” said Mr Ganya.
Limpopo’s Department of Transport has already deployed a team led by the Director of Traffic and Community Safety, Mr Allen Matsila to clear the challenges at the border.
Assistant Regional Immigration Officer-in-charge of Beitbridge, Mr Nqobile Ncube said the traffic flow had greatly improved and there were in constant touch with their counterparts to address bottlenecks as and when they arose.
“Our counterparts in South Africa have managed to unlock the traffic problems which they have been having,” he said.