Shut land borders — experts tell gvt… as Zim’s corona deaths, infections keep soaring

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Mugove Tafirenyika

CHIEF WRITER

tafirenyikam@dailynews.co.zw

CONCERNED medical experts have implored the government to follow the example of South Africa and close all its land borders, to curb the alarming spread of coronavirus in the country.

Speaking to the Daily News yesterday, the experts also said they were worried that authorities were taking too long to reveal their plans for acquiring and administering much-needed Covid-19 vaccines.

This comes as Zimbabwe is battling to contain the ever rising cases of the deadly respiratory disease — which had killed a total of 528 people by Monday, amid growing concerns over the lack of regard for the country’s latest hard lockdown by ordinary people.

The calls for tougher coronavirus measures come after neighbouring South Africa closed all its 20 land borders on Monday, as President

Cyril Ramaphosa and his government continue to battle the worst pandemic outbreak on the African continent.

Bulawayo-based medical expert, Solwayo Ngwenya, told the Daily News yesterday that authorities needed to further restrict the movement of people into the country — adding that closing land borders would help curb the prevalence of the virus in local communities.

“The closure of borders … is going to help a lot in controlling the movement of people and the transmission of the virus, and the importation of the new variant ravaging our neighbours.

“We should have kept them closed, and with the way things are going right now, the government will soon be forced to do a stricter lockdown that includes the closure of borders depending on how the population is behaving.

“If they do, that would be a welcome development in the fight to curtail the spread of Covid-19,” the highly-regarded Ngwenya said.

The president of the Zimbabwe Nurses Association (Zina), Enock Dongo, accused the government of failing to take advice from health experts, whom he said had told authorities to close borders before the festive season.

“The issue of closing borders is long overdue. We have the challenge as Africans that we only react when we have seen the danger.

“We spoke about this before Christmas, but we were not taken seriously, and yet we ended up seeing people coming in with fake Covid-19 certificates, bribing border officials.

“Right now we do not even know how far that affected us. We must close our borders immediately,” Dongo told the Daily News.

Meanwhile, Dongo also said the government was taking too long to prepare the nation for Covid-19 vaccines — amid fears among some people that they could have fatal side effects.

“The issue of vaccines shows the lack of urgency on our part. In South Africa, the president has allayed fears that the vaccines will work against people by giving details of how they were going to do it in terms of the doses required, the type they would use and the criteria of who will be vaccinated first.

“In our case, there is zero awareness and no official communication on all those things. It is our thinking that the government should prepare … people psychologically … by availing such important information.

“It is the responsibility of the government to tell the nation about the possible negative effects based on scientific research. Maybe they are quiet because that is what they are doing,” Dongo further told the Daily News.

But the president of the Senior Hospital Doctors Association (SHDA), Shingai Nyaguse, said authorities needed to tighten restrictions on people’s movements — as the majority of cases were local transmissions.

“Our government needs to tailor its solutions to the problems at hand. The main source of cases now is local transmission rather than cross-border transmission.

“The government must strengthen local transmission containment measures instead, and tighten border movement enforcement rules.

“There is an urgent need to capacitate rapid response teams in all provinces and districts,” Nyaguse told the Daily News.

All this comes as there are concerns of a growing lack of discipline and adherence to lockdown restrictions by citizens.

This week, the police said they were worried by increasing acts of indifference to the disease and a general disregard for the current stay-at-home order.

“The police have also noted with concern that people are not observing physical distancing and putting on masks, while many are also gathering at markets.

“Bars are also being opened, with their owners playing hide and seek with the police … and we want to warn the public that they must not cry foul when they are arrested.

“We also call upon the public to report to the police those who disregard the regulations for their own safety,” national police spokesperson, Paul Nyathi, told the Daily News.

This comes as Zimbabwe has entered the second week of a hard national lockdown announced by authorities to curb the spread of Covid-19 in the country.

However, and despite imposing the tough stay-at-home order, the country has so far failed to significantly lower the number of people dying from the virulent disease.

Also worryingly, the number of people recovering from Covid-19 has being diminishing in recent weeks, amid  spiralling cases of those infected by the novel virus.

Among the measures that the country has taken to contain Covid-19 include the re-introduction of a fresh dusk-to-dawn curfew.

In addition, the operations of all businesses — except those providing essential services — have also once again been suspended for 30 days, as authorities battle to curb the spread of the lethal disease.

The re-imposed dusk-to-dawn curfew means that people are prohibited from being out and about between 6pm and 6am, except for those providing essential services.

In addition, supermarkets now operate from 8am to 3pm. But air travel and essential land transportation across borders for trucks continue under the new measures announced by Vice President Constantino Chiwenga, who is also the country’s Health minister.

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