HomeEditorial CommentBe proactive in dealing with new Covid variant

Be proactive in dealing with new Covid variant

The emergence of a new Covid-19 variant that was first detected in Botswana and South Africa poses a serious threat to Zimbabwe’s tourism sector, which was showing signs of recovery after the hard lockdowns that began last year.

Britain on Friday banned flights from six southern African countries, including Zimbabwe, as the world reacted to the latest public health emergency.

Preliminary investigations in Botswana revealed that the new variant also known as omicron has a high number of mutations compared to the Delta variant, which is dominant in Zimbabwe and some southern African countries.

There are also indications that the variant can reduce the effectiveness of Covid-19 vaccines.

Unless, Zimbabwe becomes proactive in dealing with the potential threats posed by the new variant, the country will have to return to the era of hard lockdowns and a freeze on economic activities.

One of the reasons why Western countries are banning flights from Zimbabwe even before the country records a case of the new variant is because our borders are porous.

Zimbabwe’s borders have been closed since January for ordinary travellers, but reality is that people cross to South Africa in large numbers every day.

The majority of the travellers do not test for Covid-19 as per regulations because they can bribe their way from Johannesburg to Harare.

Buses travel between Harare and Johannesburg in broad day light while law enforcement agents pay a blind eye because most of the time they are paid to look the other side.

There is also the issue of border jumpers, who travel as they wish between Zimbabwe, Botswana and South Africa.

Irregular migration is the biggest threat to efforts to control Covid-19 in Zimbabwe and if the government does not pay attention to that issue, the country would be heading back to hard lockdowns.

The authorities must tighten border controls to stop the flow of people from hotspot countries such as South Africa.

Serious action must be taken against bus operators that are flouting Covid-19 travel regulations and law enforcement agents that perpetuate this illegality must face the law.

Anything short of proactive and decisive action in handling the latest Covid-19 threat will spell doom for the country’s economy with tourism being the hardest hit.

Tourist source markets such as Britain have to be convinced that Zimbabwe is capable protecting itself against the new variant for them to remove the country from their “red lists”.

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