GOVERNMENT says it will tighten screening of visitors entering Zimbabwe after reports of a surge in COVID-19 infections fuelled by new variants in China.
This follows reports that one out of every two passengers arriving at Milan Malpensa Airport in Italy from China was testing COVID-19 positive.
Guido Berolaso, a member of the Regional Council for Health and Welfare Affairs of the Lombardy Region said 35 of 92 passengers on a plane from China to Milan on December 26 were positive, while 62 of 120 passengers on a second flight were also positive.
Zimbabwe’s chief co-ordinator for the National Response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Agnes Mahomva yesterday told NewsDay that in light of the global upsurge in COVID-19 cases, the country was on high alert.
Mahomva said on-going genomic sequencing had not identified any new variants in the country.“We will tighten screening of visitors entering the country, but at the moment no new COVID-19 variants have been detected,” Mahomva said.
She said government had put in place several public health and social measures (PHSM) ahead of the festive season.
“Some of the returning residents and visitors are coming from countries that are recording an increase in new cases. Measures put in place and being implemented or being strengthened include the following; tightening of screening at our points of entry in line with one of our latest COVID-19 statutory instruments,” Mahomva said.
“These state that all visitors must be fully vaccinated and that those who are not vaccinated must have a polymerase chain reaction test done before they are allowed in if their test is negative.”
This, she said, was meant to protect the population during the festive season when a lot of returning residents from the diaspora and visitors were expected to travel to Zimbabwe in large numbers.
During the festive season, Zimbabwe witnesses an increase in returning residents and visitors coming to the country.
Zimbabwe opened its borders to travellers early this year after two years under COVID-19-induced travel restrictions.
Last week, during the final post-Cabinet briefing for 2022, Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services minister Monica Mutsvangwa said over 200 new cases and six COVID-19-related deaths were recorded in the country in the previous week.
After reports of an upsurge in COVID-19 cases in China, the United States, Italy and other Western countries we are now considering imposing new COVID-19 restrictions on Chinese arrivals.
Beijing has announced that it would reopen its borders next month.
Mahomva said all other PHSM such as washing hands with soap and running water, frequent hand sanitising and proper wearing of face masks in crowded indoor places including on public transport vehicles continued to be encouraged and enforced.
“Health and Child Care ministry teams continue to vaccinate and encourage everyone to get vaccinated. Government is also strengthening case management by ensuring health facilities have adequate oxygen supplies and the medicines required for supportive care of positive cases,” she said.
“Finally, government continues to assess and monitor the situation on a daily basis guided by both local and global data in order to provide a timely and science-driven response when necessary.”
As at December 23, 2022, the number of cases stood at 259 981, with 5 637 deaths.
Government said that 6 581 530 first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine had been administered by December 20, while 4 949 555 people received their second jabs and 1 274 040 got their third doses.