Wednesday, 15 July 2020

GOVT PUTS UP RETURNEES IN HOTELS, LODGES


GOVERNMENT is accommodating returning residents in private hotels and lodges and $175 million has been allocated to cater for their welfare and the upgrading of quarantine facilities.

The decision to put returnees in quarantine facilities is meant to ensure that they are cleared of Covid-19, minimising risk of spreading the virus.

In Bulawayo, Khumalo Hotel in Kumalo and Standard Hotel in the city centre have been identified as some of the quarantine facilities housing returning residents together with Insinga Youth Centre situated in Barham Green. Khumalo Hotel is housing female returnees while Standard Hotel and Insinga Youth Centre are accommodating males.

In Harare, Courteney Hotel is one of the new quarantine facilities. 

Since the country recorded the first Covid-19 case in March, most of the confirmed cases were from citizens returning from South Africa, Botswana, United Kingdom among other countries.

The returnees were housed in schools and colleges before Government resolved that the institutions must be evacuated in preparation for their reopening.

Bulawayo Polytechnic College and United College of Education were used as the main quarantine facilities for returnees in Bulawayo. Returnees at both colleges were removed over the weekend in preparation for the colleges reopening on Monday with some of them being placed in local hotels.

In Bulawayo, 134 returnees are still quarantined although authorities did not give specific details of the number of people at each facility. Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Minister Professor Paul Mavima said Government used hotels as quarantine facilities due to shortage of alternative public infrastructure to house returnees. 

“We really had to make sure that whatever we are paying does not come near commercial rates being paid at bigger hotels. We are using private hotels but the expensive ones we are not using as Government. The expensive ones are where people are paying for themselves. But what we have done is that we are using budget hotels which means those that are not costly,” said Minister Mavima.

“We have that arrangement in Harare and similar arrangements in Victoria Falls. I know there are lodges and similar facilities that have been acquired for that purpose. This has been necessitated by the fact that we had to move out of schools as well as institutions of higher learning.”

He said usage of hotels is not permanent as Government was renovating some vocational training centres among other institutions to make them conducive for habitation.

“The Ministry has been given a budget of $175 million for the purposes of taking care of the quarantine centres. So, it also means that whatever amount we are paying to these facilities is coming from that budget. So far, $125 million has already been released to us and only $50 million is outstanding. Should we need additional resources we will have to go to finance. But this was a very tactical decision that we had to make because we had run out of space to put returnees,” said Minister Mavima.

He said Government was also addressing issues to do with delays in testing of returnees for Covid-19 during their stay in holding facilities.

Returning residents are expected to stay for 21-days in quarantine facilities before being released to communities. “The situation was very bad about two to three weeks ago but Government then assigned Deputy Minister of Health and Child Care (Dr John Mangwiro) to be responsible for coordinating logistics and make sure that tests kits are available and also that results from the tests are delivered as quickly as possible.
  
And we have seen a lot of improvements,” he said.

Prof Mavima said the donation of 30 000 tests kits by China will also address problems associated with delays in conducting mandatory Covid-19 tests and releasing returnees from holding facilities.

Hospitality Industry Association of Zimbabwe (HAZ) chairperson Mr Arnold Musonza said players in the sector are benefiting under the Government programme to quarantine returnees in their facilities.

He said accommodating returnees in hotels could also address the problem of them escaping from holding facilities.

“It’s a good thing that some of the hotels have been identified for that and offered those services. It also helps those owners to get income during these hard times because a lot of such facilities are closed down and are unable to get any income yet they still have fixed costs to take care of,” he said.

“But you also need to know that what they are offering is basically public service because they can’t be offering services like they are offering to the leisure market. In a nut shell they are recovering costs.” Chronicle

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