THE fact that our biggest trading partner, neighbouring South Africa has decided to reopen its land borders from Monday following advice from its National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC), should not in any way prod Zimbabwean authorities to blindly follow the same route as circumstances in the two countries differ on many fronts.
Our fears are that if we rush to open our borders for travellers from COVID-19 hotspots like South Africa, this could result in a surge in imported cases, which will in turn further complicate the health situation in the country given the parlous state of our health infrastructure.
Authorities should, therefore, be on the side of caution until we achieve maximum control of the pandemic.
It’s a fact that despite recording a record higher infection rate and deaths in the Sadc region and facing the spectre of a deadly third wave, South Africa undoubtedly fares much better in health service delivery as compared to most of her peers in the region, particularly her northern neighbour.
Besides, the Cyril Ramaphosa-led administration has already secured and continues to stockpile vaccines to inoculate its citizens, in addition to introducing a host of new protocols to minimise infections at its ports of entry.
Although Zimbabwe might be under pressure from business and other quarters to reopen its borders, conditions on the ground at the moment don’t allow for a rash decision.
We have travelled this road before, so we should be wary of the pitfalls lying ahead of us. This is not the time to mimic anything South African like we have done before. Economic interests should not supersede the sanctity of human life.
Adequate measures such as massive vaccination of citizens, curbing corruption at borders and in the issuance of COVID-19 certificates to ensure our borders don’t turn into COVID-19 hotspots or super-spreaders as it were, ought to be put in place before we consider opening our doors for foreign travel.
In short, Zimbabwe should try by all means to match measures that South Africa has implemented. The issue of porous borders as well as corruption at the points of entry, which has remained our Achilles heel, requires urgent address if we are to safely resume travel and trade with other countries.
It’s not in doubt that our public health delivery system is in the intensive care unit and has no capacity to absorb additional shocks. Therefore, authorities should tread with caution and remain guided by pragmatism if we are to win the war against the virus.
The fact that our COVID-19 infection and death rates are going down should not lull us into believing that we have won the battle, considering that neighbouring South Africa is facing a new highly infectious and transmissible variant that might even be more difficult to tame.