Zimbabwe fears returnees will rev up corona virus spread

A police water canon sprays disinfectant over residential flats during a 21-day nationwide lockdown called to help curb the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Harare, Zimbabwe, April 3, 2020. REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo

Over 13,000 Zimbabweans returned home from South Africa over a three-day period and this has raised fears of an increase in the spread of the corona-virus in the country.

South Africa has become the epicenter of COVID -19 in Africa with nearly 1,500 cases and fiver fatalities as of Thursday.

Pretoria ordered a national three-week lock down last week to control the spread of the virus and thousands of Zimbabwean economic refugees returned with at least 13,500 passing through the Beitbridge main border post in three days.

The Zimbabwean government, faced with a collapsed health infrastructure and an acute shortage of testing kits, is afraid of a spike in infections if the returnees do not adhere to the self-quarantine regulations.

According to Health and Child Care minister Obadiah Moyo, “We have seen a sudden large influx of returning residents through our Beitbridge border post. Initially, we were advised that there was a group of 500 nationals returned by the South African government. We recommend that they be put under self-quarantine at designated venues.”

Dr.Moyo is quoted saying the surge in returnees was putting pressure on border officials who have to carry out proper screening for the virus.

He said 13,500 people had been advised to self-quarantine but experts said it is impossible in a country where urban centers have no running water and citizens have to queue for the basics which are always in short supply.

Experts have warned that the number of returning residents was just the tip of the iceberg as thousands could have used illegal crossing points because they has no travel documents making it difficult to enforce self-quarantine measures among undocumented immigrants.

Zimbabwe began its own 21-day lockdown on March 30, and in two days 182 people had been arrested for straying out of their homes to fetch water or to buy food.

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