Coronavirus knocks on Beitbridge doors

Annie puts on a surgical mask which prevents her contracting Ebola through bodily fluids

By Rex Mphisa

THE situation at Beitbridge has remained lull despite the dreaded COVID-19 virus knocking on the border town’s doors following the arrival in Limpopo province of 122 South Africans repatriated from Wuhan, China.

The 122 arrived in Polokwane early yesterday morning under heavy police and military escort, SA’s News 24 reported.

They were whisked away to Protea Hotels Ranch Resort evacuated early last week to house the repatriates.

Zimbabwe’s Health and Child Care ministry spokesperson Donald Mujiri on Friday did not respond to questions on what new measures existed at Beitbridge which is in the shadow of the Limpopo province.

Like in South Africa, the residents of Beitbridge are worried about the neighbouring country’s choice of Limpopo as the quarantine for repatriates from Wuhan where the deadly virus originated.

“It is not our country and we have no say, but if anything goes wrong we will be affected,” one Beitbridge resident said on condition of anonymity.

A shipping agent and businessman at Beitbridge Elias Chibi said he was surprised by the decision.

“Why Limpopo? Good things never seem to come to that place. It’s underdeveloped and now they have made it a dumping ground. I hope it does not spill into Zimbabwe,” he said.
Polokwane is 200km from Beitbridge.

The entire southern border of Zimbabwe, which is Beitbridge district, is shared with Limpopo province and is famed for smuggling and illegal crossings by thousands of people between the two countries.

“If there is an outbreak, border jumpers are likely to expose us to this disease,” said Chibi.

Some residents, however, believe the best province to host the repatriates was Limpopo because it has hot temperatures believed to kill the virus.

Some countries in the region have taken measures against the COVID-19, but Zimbabweans believe their government was not doing enough.

Some have criticised the screening point at the border saying it was not compelling enough due to its location deep inside Customs and Excise yard.

Immigration officials are, however, not processing passports if travellers do not have a health clearance pass.

Last week, South Africa’s Health minister Zweli Mkhize told South Africans that all measures to ensure their safety were being explored.