The reopening of the country’s borders last week almost nine months after they were closed to slow down the spread of the coronavirus has presented Zimbabwe with yet another formidable test in its efforts to keep the pandemic under control.
Zimbabwe, like most of its neighbours, had sealed its borders after recognition that travel played a key role in the transmission of the virus.
Covid-19 has since killed over a million people across the globe and the numbers keep rising.
In Zimbabwe, the Covid-19 cases breached the
10 000 mark last week and there are indications that infections and deaths are rising again after a slowdown in previous months.
The re-opening of the borders, therefore, does not mean that Zimbabwe has the pandemic under control.
Zimbabwe still has a very weak health system that can easily be overwhelmed by a sharp rise in Covid-19 cases, hence the need to exercise caution as the country re-opens after the tight lockdown imposed in March.
The re-opening of the borders on December 1 saw hundreds of Zimbabweans trying to enter South Africa and Botswana using fake Covid-19 certificates.
Most countries demand that visitors should prove that they tested negative for coronavirus at least 48 hours prior to their travel.
However, a number of Zimbabwean travellers, who are mostly informal traders, cannot afford the Covid-19 test with most health institutions charging at least US$65 for the service.
Some opportunists are taking advantage of the travellers’ desperation to sell fake Covid-19 certificates, which people are presenting at the borders.
Hundreds of travellers that fell victim to the scam were left stranded at the points of entry last week as the neighbouring countries are strictly enforcing the rules to prevent the virus spreading to their populations.
The proliferation of the fake Covid-19 test certificates should be a wake-up call for Zimbabwean authorities to tighten their systems to avoid cross-border infections.
South Africa is considered an epicentre of the respiratory disease on the continent and the number of people testing positive after returning from the neighbouring country shows how important it is to ensure that Zimbabwe’s borders have strong disease surveillance systems.
As the festive season approaches, border authorities need to up their game if the country is to avoid an explosion in new infections.
The border authorities are well advised to plug all loopholes that would allow corruption to fester at this very difficult time for the country and the region.
Prevention remains Zimbabwe’s only viable option to bring the pandemic under control.