Govt runs out of funds for corona repatriations
and Vasco Chaya
FOREIGN Affairs secretary James Manzou yesterday told Parliament that government no longer has resources to repatriate Zimbabweans affected by the coronavirus pandemic abroad.
This comes amid reports that some Zimbabweans abroad were struggling to make ends meet as a result of lockdown measures adopted by their host countries and needed to return home.
It also comes at a time Zimbabwe has been experiencing an upsurge in Covid-19 cases, which stood at 203 as of yesterday afternoon. Most of the new cases are returnees from South Africa, Botswana, Mozambique and the UK.
“We have no budget for repatriation as a ministry (government) and we treat each case differently… We have engaged the business community and well-wishers to help us.
“Our missions need a consular fund, whether during the time of Covid-19 or not,” Manzou told the parliamentary portfolio committee on foreign affairs.
“We have requested for US$300 000 from the ministry of Finance to buy tickets for Zimbabweans in China, but that has not come.
“The majority of Zimbabweans in foreign countries who have registered for repatriation with our embassies have expressed interest to fund themselves.
“Government has limited resources to repatriate its citizens from South Africa. A total of
2 003 people have funded themselves to come back home from South Africa.”
Manzou said, to date, 37 Zimbabweans have succumbed to Covid-19 in the UK and most of these people were working in the health sector.
“To come up with the figure, we relied mostly on information supplied by the Citizen Association in the UK and chances are high that more than 37 people might have died in the UK as some of the deaths were not reported.
“The bodies were buried in the UK due to non-availability of airlines during this period… as well as the cost.”
Meanwhile, government has intensified security at quarantine centres after more than 149 returnees escaped, raising fears of the further spread of the deadly virus.
Deputy Labour minister Lovemore Matuke told the Daily News yesterday that the government was deploying more security to ensure returnees do not leave quarantine centres before time.
“We have intensified security at quarantine centres. We want to make sure that no one flees from the centres.
“The number of people fleeing quarantine centres is now decreasing. The country’s security is doing a good job and we are very happy with what they are doing. We will continue to provide adequate security so that returnees do not flee the centres,” Matuke said.
The secretary-general of the Senior Hospital Doctors Association (SHDA), Aaron Musara, said the government must provide security and also improve the welfare of returnees in quarantine centres.
“Ensure quarantine is done effectively and the government must provide decent accommodation for returnees for them to be able to stay.
“The number of people at a quarantine centre must be reduced. We must make sure that people are not crowded at one centre.
“Look at Chinese right now; their infection numbers are decreasing as they are doing the right things. We need to take some lessons from them.
“Government must improve the facilities and improve the security at quarantine centres. They must do both so that the country will be able to curb the spread of Covid-19.”
The chairperson of the Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights (ZADHR), Fortune Nyamande, said the government must do more in terms of testing the returnees.
“We advise that all returnees are tested immediately on arrival and those found positive are isolated and treated accordingly in the available health institutions.
“Additionally, all returnees must be tested again before leaving the quarantine centres using PCR diagnostic test kits.”
Suggestions have been made to shut the borders to limit the spread of the lethal pandemic, but Health minister Obadiah Moyo said it was not possible to bar citizens as this would be violating the country’s Constitution.
“We cannot shut our citizens out as they belong here, but we want them to be responsible so that they are tested and go through screening and quarantine processes.
“We cannot afford any let-ups because our health is of paramount importance.
“What we need to do is to ensure that we follow returning citizens everywhere until we are satisfied that they are free of the virus.”
The government has admitted it lacks the capacity to deal with the influx of returning citizens — some of whom are fleeing from quarantine centres as a result of the inadequate conditions prevailing there.