Thupeyo Muleya Beitbridge Bureau
South Africa has temporarily closed its component of Beitbridge Border Post after one of its customs officers tested positive for the novel coronavirus (covid19).
According to border officials, the border was closed to allow health authorities to carry out fumigations to minimize chances of having more infections.
Presently the South Africans are busy clearing commercial traffic, which is within their customs yard pending further action. They have stopped accepting trucks from either side of the border until the fumigation is done. The South African Revenue Services (SARS) has since sent a notice to inter border agencies in Zimbabwe advising them of the latest development.
“Please be advised that SARS Beitbridge has been temporarily closed with immediate effect,” said SARS.
“Trucks that are currently inside the yard will be processed in order for them to leave but those that are still in the queue to enter customs will not be allowed into the yard.
“SARS BBG management is in a meeting right now and they will update us with full details once the meeting is over. The issue is Covid-19 related and may entail further closure for deep cleaning and fumigation.”
SARS spokesperson, Sicelo Mkosi was not readily available for further details. However, border officials said they were hopeful operations would resume at full strength soon. Since the beginning of the lockdown, an average of 1 000 trucks have been using the border post daily. Traffic through Beitbridge peaked after other countries in the region closed their borders to contain the spread of the corona virus.
Zimbabwe remains a viable transit route for Zambia, Malawi, Angola, Tanzania, DRC and Mozambique. The incident comes a few days after Musina Police station was also closed for fumigation when one police officer tested for covid-19.
Zimbabwe Revenue Authority’s (ZIMRA), regional manager, Mr Innocent Chikuni said recently during a tour of Beitbridge by Finance Minister (Professor Mthuli Ncube) the border had become arguably the COVID-19 hotspot in the country. He said they were regularly and consistently providing information/updates on the disease guided by the Ministry of Health and Child Care and World Health Organisation’s protection guidelines to both border agencies and travelers.
“We are consistently disinfecting our work stations, providing appropriate PPE – Face mask / PE Work suits/ Sanitizers/ document disinfecting – to staff, maintaining social distance and using temperature guns / sanitizers at the entry gate into the border offices – to cater for border agents and other persons,” said Mr Chikuni.