SENIOR STAFF WRITER
TOBACCO Industry and Marketing Board (Timb) chief executive, Andrew Matibiri, pictured, says all tobacco staff will be classified as frontline workers and will be vaccinated before the selling season opens next month.
This comes as Timb yesterday announced a slew of stringent measures for players in the tobacco sector to avert a Covid-19 calamity during the upcoming selling season, which begins on April 7.
It also comes as Zimbabwe embarked on an inoculation drive last month after receiving SinoPharm vaccines from the government of China.
During the first stage of the vaccination, health workers, police, military, prison, immigration, customs officials and journalists were classified as frontline workers and have been receiving the doses.
Apart from the vaccination, Matibiri said Timb had enlisted the Zimbabwe Republic Police and local government authorities to enforce the total closure and removal of all flea markets and all vending sites around the auction and contract sales floors ahead of the date.
Appearing before a portfolio committee on Lands, Agriculture, Water, Fisheries, Climate and Rural Resettlement yesterday, Matibiri said all selling points must actively spearhead Covid-19 awareness campaigns at their respective premises, including displaying relevant posters and fliers.
“The farmer shall be notified of his or her tentative selling time at the point of booking and only one farmer/representative to attend the sales. A maximum of only two people are allowed on-board the tobacco delivery trucks (driver and assistant only).
“The ‘delivery today and sale tomorrow’ policy will be enforced in full. Banking facilities at sales floors should meet all Health ministry set Covid-19 guidelines,” Matibiri said.
He said premises, and in particular areas that have high human contact and moving traffic, must be continuously disinfected before, during and after sales. Schedules and records of disinfection should also be displayed.
“No children under the age of 16 shall be allowed into tobacco sales premises and sales areas. Each sales point shall have a designated isolation area in accordance with guidelines and recommendations from the Health ministry.
“The Health ministry shall be engaged to give guidance on how to handle suspected Covid-19 cases referred to the isolation centres at the selling floors,” Matibiri added.
The outgoing Timb boss said farmers would not be permitted to sleep over at the sales points and under no circumstances will sales floors offer overnight accommodation to farmers.
Zimbabwe is expecting a good tobacco yield this year after experiencing good rains while farmers were also able to access key inputs on time.