Illegal returnees to fuel local transmissions

Source: 15 July 2020Health

Communities living along the Zimbabwe-Botswana boundary line are living in fear of the implosion of the novel Coronavirus as the number of illegal returnees in those areas continues to increase.

The illegal entry points in Matobo and Bulilima Districts may result in the unchecked community spread of Covid-19. Citizens who are based in the neighboring country are reportedly trickling back through illegal entry points, skipping crucial quarantine screening process.

Disturbing reports indicate that community members are seemingly hesitant to report border jumpers to the police or local leadership, putting more people at risk of contracting the virus. Several calls have been made for citizens to report anyone who entered the country illegally from neighboring countries so that they are taken to isolation centres for mandatory screening to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

Parts of Matobo and Bulilima Districts have reportedly been receiving illegal returnees from neighboring South Africa and Botswana. Due to fear of victimization, some community members have not been reporting border jumpers in their midst; while have also gone to the extent of accommodating strangers in transit, raising fears over possible risk of community spread of Covid-19.

Local transmissions have been on the rise in the country and investigations are underway to establish the sources of infections. The increase may also be attributed to porous entry points which have become a cause for concern in combating the transnational spread of Covid-19 between Zimbabwe, South Africa, and Botswana.

“We receive border jumpers almost every day but people are afraid to report them due to the fear of being victimized by relatives,” said one community member speaking to Habakkuk Trust recently. “Some of the illegal returnees knock at our homes at night seeking accommodation and some villagers actually accommodate them. We are very vulnerable and more cases of Covid-19 might be recorded if our community if the government does not address the issue of border jumping.”

Habakkuk Trust also received a report about a family that illegally gained entry into the country with their sick relative who died in transit. They reportedly carried the body to Bulawayo where they managed to buy a coffin and proceeded to their rural home for burial.

Border jumping in light of the pandemic has a likelihood of reversing the country’s efforts of fighting Covid-19.

Habakkuk Trust is, therefore, imploring the Government to intensify border patrol measures in order to curb illegal entry and ensure all returnees go through the crucial quarantine process to reduce community infections. It’s also important for responsible Ministries to conduct periodic outreaches in communities to encourage community members to report all cases of border jumping in their areas.

Source: Habakkuk Trust