BY LENIN NDEBELE
The New Year’s plea from many in Zimbabwe is the arrival of a Covid-19 vaccine as soon as possible, as the country’s festive season was dampened by fears fuelled by a second wave of infections.
The UK has pledged to vaccinate three million people drawn from low-income communities.
“We discussed how Zimbabwe can benefit from this so the most vulnerable 20% can be vaccinated. We discussed how important it is that these vaccines are targeted to people who need them most,” said Melanie Robinson, UK ambassador to Zimbabwe, after meeting Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga, who doubles as health minister.
However, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), Zimbabwe could be among the last countries to get a Covid-19 vaccine.
“It’s a nightmare. I have lost relatives and friends to this thing,” said a nurse at a government hospital in Harare.
The second wave of infections has manifested and there are more cases and deaths recorded daily. The average daily infections last week stood at 122 with five deaths. During the first wave, new cases used to average around 20 per day.
Heading into the New Year, some health experts are calling for another total lockdown to curb rising infections, informed by what is happening on the ground.
Nine national team footballers and five officials tested positive for Covid-19 on Tuesday while preparing to play in the Chan tournament scheduled for Cameroon from January 16 to February 7, 2021.
Responding to the spike in Covid-19 cases, the Primary and Secondary education ministry has decided to alter the dates on which schools reopen.
“In light of the surge in Covid-19 infections and the new and more contagious variants of the disease, government has seen it fit to deviate from the previously announced 2021 school calendar,” said Tumisang Tabela, secretary for the ministry. New dates are yet to be announced.
With the detection of new variants of the coronavirus, which appear to transmit more easily, there are fears this will drive up infections in Zimbabwe.
Meanwhile, South Africa says it will not allow any traveller into the country without a valid Covid-19 test.
Home affairs minister Aaron Motsoaledi said this on Wednesday during a media briefing on immigration matters and border law enforcement under adjusted Covid-19 alert level 3. He outlined the government’s intervention procedures as the country expected volumes of people to return to SA between January 2 and 14.
Motsoaledi said the department would deploy an additional 160 officials at the six busiest land ports to process returning travellers until January 14. These are:
l Beitbridge border post with Zimbabwe;
l Lebombo with Mozambique;
l Oshoek with the kingdom of Eswatini;
l Maseru Bridge with Lesotho;
l Ficksburg with Lesotho; and
l Kopfontein with Botswana.
He said another 60 immigration law-enforcement officers would be deployed to support the South African National Defence Force at identified high-risk areas along the border where people tend to cross illegally into SA.
“The immigration officers and the soldiers are not there to stop people from coming into South Africa. They are there to insist that anybody wishing to visit South Africa must use the official gates of entry and produce all the requisite documentation, otherwise they won’t be allowed in.”
Motsoaledi said the department of health, via its Port Health unit, would also deploy additional officials to all ports of entry to ensure only travellers with valid Covid-19 tests are allowed into the country.
Those without will be tested at the border at their own cost.
“Only truck drivers are exempted from these test requirements, as was the case at the beginning of the lockdown. Any other traveller is warned once more that they will never be allowed in the country without producing authentic tests,” said Motsoaledi.
In addition to the Port Health officials who will be deployed, 278 community service personnel would be available to assist.
“The National Health Laboratory Service will enlist private laboratories to provide additional support for testing. The South African Military Health Service has been requested to provide 73 additional military health personnel to help in the testing,” Motsoaledi said, adding that there would also be roadblocks, mainly in Limpopo, the Free State, Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal.
Motsoaledi also announced that the Kosi Bay border post between KZN and Mozambique, which has been closed since the beginning of lockdown in March, would open from January 1.
— Times Live