Friday, 27 March 2020


AS THE country struggles to deal with the deadly coronavirus at home, the government has now also been forced to rescue 107 Zimbabweans who are being detained by Tanzanian authorities in Dar es Salaam over the pandemic, the Daily News reports.

This comes as medical doctors and nurses have gone on strike over the lack of adequate protective clothing and equipment to fight the lethal virus — further elevating the anxiety levels of long-suffering Zimbabweans.

It also comes as the government has effected a number of stringent measures to try and mitigate the spread of Covid-19 in the country, including banning large gatherings of more than 50 people and shutting all the country’s borders for nonessential travel.

Speaking in an interview with the Daily News yesterday, Foreign Affairs deputy minister David Musabayana confirmed that 107 Zimbabweans were indeed being detained in Dar es Salaam — adding that the government had now made arrangements for them to return home tomorrow.

“Negotiations were done between the two countries which resulted in Tanzania releasing all the 107 Zimbabweans yesterday (Wednesday).

“The Zimbabwean embassy in Tanzania played a crucial role to rescue the situation. All the affected people are expected back in the country on Saturday by Air Zimbabwe, as agreed during the negotiations.

“The government had to intervene to help its citizens held up in foreign countries,” Musabayana said.

The travelling Zimbabweans were detained immediately after they disembarked from an Air Zimbabwe plane at the Julius Nyerere International Airport, in Dar es-Salaam this week.

The stranded group is mostly made up of traders who use the eastern African country to receive imported used vehicles, and to buy clothes and other cheap products for re-sale back home.

After being detained, the Zimbabweans — who included both men and women — were told that they had to pay for their own accommodation at hotels designated by the Tanzanian authorities for people who go into mandatory 14-day isolation periods, in line with the country’s recently established regulations.

“Due to an on-going outbreak of respiratory illness caused by a novel (new) coronavirus (Covid-19) that can be spread from person-to-person globally, and given the fact that cases of Covid-19 have been reported and confirmed in the United Republic of Tanzania, the government … has instituted additional travel measures to limit the spread of the virus to the general public as of 23rd March 2020.

“All travellers, whether foreigners or returning residents arriving from Covid-19 most affected countries, will be subjected to mandatory isolation for 14 days at their own cost, at designated facilities identified by the government.

“Passengers should fill in Health Surveillance Form in the plane, or any other transport means and submit them to Port Health Authorities upon arrival,” the Tanzanian government’s new corona measures say.

“All travellers will be subjected to an intensive screening and where necessary, Covid-19 rapid testing.

“All travellers will then be informed of the designated isolation facilities, costs and arrangements in place and access to those facilities.

“After 14 days quarantine, passengers who have not developed symptoms of Covid-19 may leave the facilities and will be required to register personal information for future possible tracking purpose,” the country’s regulations add.

In a video that has been circulating on social media, the 107 crestfallen Zimbabweans could be seen trying to reason with Tanzanian authorities, begging to be released, but to no avail — prompting the religious in the group to turn to prayer.

To stay in one of the designated hotels for a period of two weeks, the Zimbabweans needed at least US$1 000 each for bed and breakfast only.

In the meantime, President John Magufuli’s government has since moved to ban all tourist flights and also closed all hotels in the country, as part of precautionary measures to stop the spread of the deadly virus.

Tanzania has so far reported 12 confirmed cases of Covid-19, while Zimbabwe has three known cases, with one fatality.

On Wednesday, Zimbabwe was hit by the doctors’ and nurses’ industrial action — who are protesting the lack of protective clothing and adequate equipment at the country’s hospitals and clinics, needed to treat coronavirus patients.

This inopportune downing of tools came as the under-pressure government also confirmed that it would use several private hospitals in urban areas, to complement facilities such as the creaking Wilkins Hospital in Harare, to treat coronavirus patients.

In a letter to the chief executive officers of the country’s major public hospitals, the president of the Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association (ZHDA), Tawanda Zvakada, said that healthcare workers would not risk their lives in the current environment — further bemoaning the fact that the government had not responded to their concerns.

“Pursuant to the meeting we had on Monday 23 March, 2020, in which we communicated to you our genuine grievances and expressed our fears concerning this deadly pandemic which has not spared healthcare workers as well, we expected an urgent response in writing from your office which has not come until now.

“We have expressed to you the issue of PPE (personal protective equipment) which is still not yet available.

“Whilst you continue to move around putting things in place, we would like to make it clear in no uncertain terms that our members will not be able to continue carrying out their duties with immediate effect,” Zvakada said.

“Any inconveniences caused regarding this position we have taken is sincerely regretted, but it was necessitated by a communication breakdown between the top management and the frontline doctors.

“Given the urgency of the matter and the need for social distancing, a hardcopy version of the same will be hand-delivered when the conditions are permissive,” Zvakada added.

Nurses immediately announced as well that they would also down their tools.
 The issue of how poorly-prepared Zimbabwe is to effectively deal with Covid-19 were brought to the fore on Monday, following the death of broadcaster Zororo Makamba — after apparently contracting the lethal virus in the United States of America (USA).

The talented television personality — who was the youngest son of telecommunications tycoon and legendary former broadcaster James Makamba — died at Wilkins Hospital after being diagnosed with the lethal virus.

He was one of only three local people so far who have been confirmed to have tested positive for the virus, which first broke in China at the end of last year, but has since killed more than 22 000 people and infected hundreds of thousands more worldwide. Daily News


Post a comment