Health controls at Zimbabwean borders and travel restrictions imposed by many other countries on Southern African travel have made it difficult for Zimbabweans living abroad to return home this festive season from within the region, and for practical purposes almost impossible from outside the region.
While those within the region can still travel to Zimbabwe and return to their country of residence in January, they now face 10-days of quarantine on arrival in Zimbabwe, which will cut into the time they can spend with family and friends.
For those outside the region, just finding an airline that will fly them home is almost impossible and once home being allowed back into their country of residence is problematical and if allowed they face another period of quarantine.
According to new regulations, all returning residents and visitors have to undergo a PCR test even if they present a PCR negative test result from elsewhere.
Those found to be negative will be quarantined at their own cost for 10 days and those in quarantine will be retested after five days. Those who are found to be PCR positive or have signs and symptoms will be isolated.
The regulations also state that returning residents and visitors who have been outside the country for more than 14 days found to be negative will be subjected to a mandatory 10-day quarantine at designated public or private quarantine facilities at their own cost, while those that have been outside the country for a period less than 14 days may be allowed to self-quarantine at their homes if the authorities agree that the particular homes are suitable.
Mr Nqabutho Mabhena who is the chairman of the Zimbabwe Community in South Africa said the new regulations will affect a lot of travellers.
He said being quarantined at one’s cost will be a barrier for many travellers. He also said the number of days stipulated for one to quarantine will also be a limiting factor in terms of travelling.
“It is a noble idea for travellers to get tested but the conditions involved will be a hindrance.
“They have to be quarantined at their own cost. People didn’t work well this year which means they won’t have money to meet the costs,” he said.
And even if people could meet the quarantine costs they would not be able to spend quality time with their families, he said.
“By the time they are removed from quarantine the festive season will be over. Most people will find it pointless to travel. It will be a bleak season for Diasporans.”
Ms Elfina Ncube who works in Botswana said it was her desire to visit her family during the festive season, but it was going to be difficult.
“My children are in Zimbabwe and it was my desire to come and spend Christmas with them, but I’m now having second thoughts.
“I also fear that if I come home the pandemic might worsen and the border might close which will make it difficult for me to go back to work as I have to be back at work beginning January. This whole situation pains me as I wish to spend the festive season with my children and my other relatives.”
Mrs Prudence Sibanda who works in South Africa said she and her family had planned to travel to Zimbabwe for the holidays.
She said with the new border conditions it has become costly to take a Covid-19 test in South Africa for R800 and then cross the border and take another PCR test in Zimbabwe for US$60.
Mrs Sibanda said her niece and her fiancée who are in South Africa had planned to get married on December 24 in Zimbabwe, but they had since cancelled the plan.