Victoria Falls Reporter
ZIMBABWE looks poised for unprecedented medical tourism as foreigners are reportedly inquiring on whether they can be allowed to vaccinate locally following the massive roll-out of vaccination by Government in Victoria Falls.
Government chose to roll-out massive vaccination of ordinary citizens in the tourism capital and also launched the second phase of the vaccination programme here on Wednesday, to boost confidence in the outside world about safety and health, a low hanging fruit in the tourism industry.
Victoria Falls has become the first tourism city in the world to roll out vaccination, a development that buttresses efforts to make the city a world destination of choice.
Tourism industry players, who have said the choice of Victoria Falls for the vaccination programme is a game-changer, have been inundated by inquiries from clients across the globe who want to know if they can travel to Zimbabwe just for being vaccinated.
Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry Minister Nqobizitha Mangaliso Ndlovu held a meeting with industry players here yesterday where he was told about the inquiries by international clients.
In an interview, Minister Ndlovu said health is one of the low hanging fruits in tourism and the industry has adopted the motto: “vaccinate for safer tourism.”
“What is quite exciting is that from what happened yesterday, it’s very symbolic that it’s not just that the population in Victoria Falls is getting vaccinated, but we are getting calls from people outside Zimbabwe in the region and internationally, wanting to come to Victoria Falls to get vaccinated.
“So, Victoria Falls is not just a tourist destination because of its falls, but it also becoming a health destination with people wanting to come to get vaccinated here.
“I am coming from a meeting with the industry and I am hearing from captains of industry that they are getting calls from people who want to come in for about two days to get vaccinated and go back,” said Minister Ndlovu.
Government procured 1,2 million doses of vaccines from China whose initial consignment was received last Tuesday with the remainder set for delivery early next month.
China, India and Russia have also donated vaccines to complement efforts to save lives. Minister Ndlovu said he will engage officials in the Ministry of Health and Child Care with regards to inquiries by international citizens.
“What I know is that the vaccine is availed for citizens for free and we will have to check with the Ministry of Health whether it is also free for non-citizens. We had not anticipated this kind of interest and so the first thing they are acknowledging is that really Zimbabwe has moved way ahead of others in terms of rolling out vaccination, having a clearly spelt out programme. So, we will really have to look at it and we will inquire with the Ministry of Health,” he said.
Minister Ndlovu said the interest from internationals comes in the background of naysayers ruling out Zimbabwe from among countries that could successfully roll out Covid-19 vaccination this early. Some had said the country can only have vaccines in 2023 earliest.
Meanwhile, long queues continued yesterday as scores of residents braved the scorching sun waiting to be vaccinated at the respective static sites.
The queue was still long at the Victoria Falls Hospital and health workers had to extend time beyond 5pm, when they were supposed to close for the day.
At Chinotimba Clinic in the morning the queue was stretching up to ZimPost offices and in the afternoon health staff had to move residents inside clinic premises with shade because of the heat.