Returnees protest over extended detention

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Jeffrey Muvundusi
in Bulawayo

RETURNEES housed at a Bulawayo Covid-19 quarantine centres, the United College of Education (UCE), on Sunday staged a protest over their extended detention.

The returnees, mostly from South Africa and Botswana, went on a hunger strike in bid to force the authorities to release them after they had spent over 21 days without being tested.

The Daily News understands that the group of angry returnees boycotted food before blocking vehicles from leaving or coming into the premises.

Not even the intervention of the police could stop the group from airing their grievances.

“We were more than 300 and were being mixed with those who came after us. We only got tested after protesting when we had stayed for 21 days, which under normal circumstances would be the time for our release. They told us there were no test kits,” one of the returnees told the Daily News.

“After being tested they said four people were positive, so they added eight more days. We then got tested again, but instead of them giving results they said there is a case again that’s when all hell broke loose.”

Other returnees who spoke to the Daily News also expressed anger at the treatment they received in the quarantine centre, describing conditions there as inhumane.

Their protest appeared to have paid off, as they were released in the evening.
Provincial Medical Director Welcome Mlilo said he was not aware of the protests.

“I received no report of such protests. However, I am aware that out of the samples tested from UCE at the NTBRL last week, one sample came back Covid-19 positive.

“The RRT moved in to isolate the positive client at Elangeni isolation facility,” Mlilo said.
“Due diligence was to be done to verify if there was no breach of infection prevention control measures in the facility. This probably is what could have caused some anxiety among the returnees.”

Mlilo said once the authorities were satisfied that no breach had happened, the rest of the returnees who had tested negative were discharged.

Asked about the over-detention, Mlilo said: “I would have to verify this information. Such long stays are not expected, even upon extension of a quarantine period in the case of a positive case which then would be deemed to have come into contact with the other returnees.”

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