GOVERNMENT is in a quandary to find alternative infrastructure for quarantining returning citizens from neighbouring countries and the overseas whose numbers are expected to increase.
By Richard Muponde
NewsDay Weekender is informed focus was now directed at housing them in warehouses, community halls and churches.
The dilemma has been created by the possibility of reopening of schools.
However, the end of lockdown does not mean the end of COVID-19 and returnees would be quarantined until the disease is declared over.
Government has been quarantining returnees in schools, colleges and universities, with Beitbridge Rainbow Hotel being the only non-learning facilities being used.
However, with the lockdown relaxation imminent, government has been left sweating on where to quarantine returning citizens.
Reports suggest that a directive has been sent to provincial COVID-19 task-forces to look for alternative quarantining centres such as community halls, churches and warehouses in anticipation of an influx of repatriates.
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Labour, Public Service and Social Welfare minister Paul Mavhima would not comment yesterday saying he was rushing into a meeting.
“I am rushing into a meeting,” he said curtly.
In Matabeleland South, the provincial development co-ordinator Sithandiwe Ncube has already sent a message seen by NewsDay Weekender to districts to have alternative quarantining centres such as community halls, churches and warehouses.
“May I kindly request that we have plan B for quarantine centres in case schools and colleges open,” the communiqué read.
“You can look at such places as community halls, churches if the owners are agreeable and warehouses. We also need a warehouse in each district where food stuff will be stocked.”
A source privy to the goings-on said government was running short of alternative quarantine centres with the imminent opening of schools.
“There is an urgent need to look for alternative infrastructure to quarantine repatriates as schools might open soon and we will be left with nowhere to quarantine them since all the facilities but one, a hotel, are learning facilities. Probably, this is what the newly appointed national COVID-19 coordinator in the President’s Office, Agnes Mahomva, saw as a grey area in the fight to control the spread of COVID-19,” he said.
The source added that government looking at churches, community halls and warehouses.
“Even those who can donate their properties for use to quarantine the repatriates are welcome to help as it is a national disaster. It needs us to fight together. The government is in a quandary as this would also likely affect the opening of schools if the numbers of returnees surge as anticipated due to lack of space to accommodate them.”
Some returnees are being accommodated at Belvedere Technical Teachers College and Zipam in Mt Hampden, while those coming from neighbouring countries are being quarantined in learning facilities in the hosting towns of their entry points.
Thousands of Zimbabweans working in South Africa and Botswana are returning home after finding the going tough in the neighbouring countries due to the lockdown measures.
A majority has indicated they want to be repatriated home voluntarily.
Last week, South Africa dumped into Zimbabwe a huge number of hardened ex-convicts released from prisons in that country.
Eighteen buses carrying 576 Zimbabweans deported from South Africa, with 129 being ex-prisoners, went through Beitbridge border post last week.