New Covid19 Variant: Tight screening to continue at borders

Thupeyo Muleya |  1 year ago | top

Health officials in Matabeleland South have said they will continue with the tight screening of travellers for Covid19 especially those entering or leaving the country through Plumtree and Beitbridge border post.

The Provincial Medical Director (PMD), Dr Rudo Chikodzore, said they are alert for the new variant, B1.1.529 (Omicron) that has so far been detected in many countries including Botswana and South Africa, in the Sadc region.

“Recently we boosted our testing capacity for Covid19 at the borders where there is a relatively high movement of transit traffic,” she said.

“In terms of screening, you will note that the screening methods have not been changed and we have been using these on all the variants that have been discovered.

“At the moment, we need to understand the impact of the condition in terms of contraction and fatality levels. In the event we have changes to the screening methods, the announcements will be done by the relevant authorities”.

Besides screening for signs and symptoms, visitors or returning residents are expected to produce a PCR Covid19 clearance certificate valid for under 48 hours.

Wheel baths, foot baths, hand sanitisers, and handwashing basins have been installed at all entry points to the buildings around the borders.

Botswana and Zimbabwe share four ports of entry, Plumtree, Mpoengs, Maitengwe, and Mlambapele, and only the Plumtree border is open to essential traffic and returning residents.

An average of 150 people is accessing Botswana and Zimbabwe daily, while at Beitbridge, which is the only land border between Zimbabwe and South Africa, authorities are handling at least 2100 travellers per day.

At the moment, the national government is busy monitoring the new variant with a view of coming up with a way of controlling the spread of the virus ahead of the festive season which is usually characterized by high traffic volumes at the ports of entry.

So far, many European countries have reacted to the detection of the new variant by banning direct flights from Sadc region.

The development comes in the midst of a Covid19 vaccination blitz that is being carried out nationally.

The government is targeting to immunize 10 million Zimbabweans national, 8000 people in Mangwe (Plumtree), and 26 000 in Beitbridge in order to reach herd immunity.

Chief Director in the Ministry of Health and Child Care Dr Maxwell Hove said recently that border towns were among the high-risk areas for new Covid19 infections due to the prevalence of cross-border related businesses.

He said immunizing those in such areas, will help protect the communities and also open up economic activities in such towns.