Thupeyo Muleya, Dumisani Nsingo and Njabulo Bhebe, Sunday News Reporters
ALL travellers coming into Zimbabwe through the Beitbridge Border Post are now required to undergo mandatory tests for coronavirus (Covid-19) before being issued with a clearance pass that allows them to have their passports stamped to enter the country.
Under the new order, all travellers are screened at the Port Health section which has been set before they are cleared for passage by the Department of Immigration. It is also understood that however, on the South African side, the country is only screening people who have travelled to specified “affected” countries. The latest development follows revelations yesterday that South Africa has recorded its second case of the disease after a woman, who travelled to Italy recently tested positive in Gauteng Province.
More health workers have been deployed to the Port Health section which is now operating 24 hours. The Sunday News crew visited the border yesterday and witnessed travellers being attended to by health personnel. The Covid-19 screening centre is located in a cubicle outside the main immigration and customs hall where health officers are marshalling all travellers for screening.
A quarantine centre has already been set up within the Border Post where suspected cases would be dealt with, before onward transmission to Thorngrove Infectious Diseases Hospital (in Bulawayo) which is set to handle all cases from the Matabeleland region.
Assistant Regional Immigration officer-in-charge of Beitbridge Border Post, Mr Nqobile Ncube told Sunday News that no traveller would be cleared for passage into Zimbabwe before undergoing screening at the Port Health section.
“It is important for travellers to adhere to set procedures when they get to the border post. The travellers must first report to the Port Health for screening where they are then given the green light to proceed with immigration formalities. We are glad that the process is going on smoothly,” said Mr Ncube.
He said they were yet to record any changes in the number of people leaving or entering the country through Beitbridge Border Post. Mr Ncube said they were clearing an average of 6 500 travellers and 70 buses on both entries and exits daily.
Health and Child Care Minister Dr Obadiah Moyo told Sunday News yesterday that contingent measures have already been put in place to curb the disease from finding its way into the country and further assured the nation that the outbreak of the disease in other parts of the world would not affect any major event that the country is set to host including the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair set for Bulawayo next month. People entering the country through any port of entry are also subjected to screening, he added.
“Zimbabwe is going to strengthen surveillance measures at the airports and borders in preparation of the ZITF and we have got new machines and we will be able to pick-up anyone who is not well, and if they are not well they will be subjected to isolation so that they will not spread the virus,” he said.
Dr Moyo emphasised that the country was adequately prepared to deal with any suspected case of coronavirus.
“We have said that we are strengthening our border checks, that’s the most crucial thing. All border post and airport checks have to be thorough to check whoever is coming into the country, that’s the major issue. We’ve got the thermal detectors in place in terms of preparedness and at the same time we have made sure all our staff are also well protected, that’s also the most crucial part. They are using protective equipment in checking out whoever is coming into the country and we have said whoever is seen to be having signs and symptoms they will be subjected to isolation,” he said.
The Bulawayo City Council has also said it has trained its medical staff at council clinics on how to handle issues related to coronavirus.
In addition, speaking during the National Day of Clean Up in Gutu on Friday, President Mnangagwa said Government was ready to deal with any cases of Covid-19. He said the Ministry of Health and Child Care had already requested more funding to strengthen its capacity to deal with the disease on the ground. The measures come after South Africa’s Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize confirmed that a second patient has tested positive for the virus.
“The Minister of Health wishes to advise all South Africans that the second case of Covid-19 has now been confirmed in South Africa. The 39-year-old lady who is from Gauteng is direct contact to the first case from KwaZulu-Natal. She was part of the group of 10 that had travelled to Italy. The public must be notified that we have information and know the whereabouts of all the other 10 people who were part of the group that had travelled to Italy. All those who came back to South Africa, are currently being tested. We are now awaiting their test results to come out.”
Latest figures released yesterday by the World Health Organisation showed that there have been 103 830 cases worldwide which have resulted in 3 522 deaths, while 58 463 people have recovered. Cases have been reported in 98 countries and territories around the world and one international conveyance (the Diamond Princess cruise ship harboured in Yokohama, Japan).