BY MIRIAM MANGWAYA
FOREIGNERS who are not permanently staying in Zimbabwe will pay for COVID-19 vaccination, which is currently being administered for free to locals.
This was said by President Emmerson Mnangagwa yesterday at State House during an interview with State media.
The country’s vaccination programme to curb the respiratory virus is in progress using the Chinese-manufactured Sinopharm and Sinovac vaccines, as well as the Indian Covaxin vaccine as Zimbabwe targets to inoculate at least 10 million, which is 60% of the population to achieve herd immunity.
“Zimbabweans will get the vaccine for free, but for foreigners who come here, they will receive the vaccine at a cost,” Mnangagwa said.
“This is a human element when we cannot deny anybody the vaccine, but if you are not Zimbabwean, we will give you the vaccine at a cost. But for Zimbabweans, my government is giving it for free. I would want all my people to realise that getting a vaccine is not a guarantee that they will never get the virus, but it mitigates against the infection of the virus.”
As of yesterday morning, 193 936 people had received their first jab of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Information secretary Ndavaningi Mangwana said non-Zimbabweans who are lawfully staying in Zimbabwe would not pay for the vaccine, but tourists and other foreigners who visit Zimbabwe for various reasons would pay for the service.
“Legal residents of Zimbabwe are vaccinated for free. Tourists pay. And some people may make a decision to come from one of our neighbouring countries to get a vaccine in Zimbabwe, those pay too,” he tweeted yesterday.
However, in neighbouring South Africa, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that foreigners in his country would get the service for free.
Recent statistics released by the Health ministry show that COVID-19 cases are beginning to rise again in the country, hence the need to accelerate the vaccination programme.
Schools have been recording the highest number of new infections after government allowed for face-to-face learning in March.
Sacred Heart Girls’ High School in Esigodini, Matabeleland South province, recorded 100 cases on Saturday, while 26 new cases were recorded nationwide according to a situational report released by the Health ministry.
As a result, Mnangagwa has banned gatherings during the Independence Day celebrations to be held next week on April 18, to curb the spread of COVID-19.
Health experts yesterday told NewsDay that it was a noble idea for government to demand payment from visiting foreigners since it was not acquiring the doses for free.
Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights secretary Norman Matara said: “If the foreigners are in transit, giving them our vaccine will just be a waste of resources because it takes time for one to have his or her immunity boosted after vaccination. Let’s say if a tourist is staying here for three weeks, vaccinating them on their arrival won’t be effective for our part because by the time they leave, the vaccination would not yet have served its purpose.”
Medical and Dental Private Practitioners of Zimbabwe Association president Johannes Marisa said government was not mandated to ensure the safety of non-citizens.
“Government is forking from its coffers to procure the vaccines although it got some donations. We are supposed to get protection as citizens of Zimbabwe from our government in situations of a crisis like this one but it may be unsustainable for the government to extend the same protection to non-citizens,” he said.
“If foreigners are staying in Zimbabwe, they must be treated as locals because they are going to put us at risk if they are not vaccinated. But if they are visitors, they have to pay for the dose. Asking for payment will help the government to save funds no matter how little.”
Itai Rusike, the executive director for Community Working Group on Health, said: “The spread of COVID-19 reminds us that nobody is safe until everybody is safe. Despite the reality that viral infections have no borders, many countries all over the world are addressing the pandemic on a narrow, nationalist basis instead of ensuring international co-operation and solidarity that will ensure affordable and urgent access to vaccines for everyone in need.”
He added: “Some countries are refusing to vaccinate migrants and asylum seekers or other populations under their occupation. We cannot tolerate xenophobia and any unjustified exclusion in the rollout of vaccines in Zimbabwe and the region among visitors to the country, vulnerable groups or communities on the basis that they are foreigners as the COVID-19 virus is a public health threat and a highly infectious disease that does not know one’s nationality, colour or creed.”
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