COVID-19: ED ignores travel ban clamour, keeps schools and borders open

President Emmerson Mnangagwa has resisted calls for a travel ban from countries with confirmed coronavirus cases

President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Tuesday announced the suspension of gatherings of more than 100 people and postponed this year’s independence rallies as part of efforts to combat COVID-19, but resisted calls for travel restrictions from high-risk countries and kept schools open.

Zimbabwe’s neighbours, including South Africa, Botswana and Kenya, have banned travel from countries with coronavirus cases, with 27 African countries now reporting confirmed COVID-19 cases. Other countries to impose travel bans include Ghana, Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco and Djibouti.

Mnangagwa said his government had declared COVID-19 a national disaster, even though the country was yet to record a confirmed case, in a bid to raise funds for the fight against the pandemic.

Here are the highlights from Mnangagwa’s address to the nation on COVID-19:

  • Zimbabwe will not impose a travel ban from high-risk countries, but is discouraging travellers. The government will however, impose a 14-day quarantine on travellers from countries deemed to pose a high-risk. Zimbabweans are also discouraged from non-essential travel to these countries.
  • All major ports of entry into the country will remain open, with only the smaller borders closed.
  • Gatherings of more than 100 people, including those for purposes of worship and weddings suspended for the next 60 days, after which the suspension will be reviewed.
  • This year’s national independence celebrations, traditionally held on April 18, as well as the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair, have been postponed. The funds originally earmarked for these events will now be channeled towards the fight against COVID-19 as well as drought relief. 
  • Schools will remain open, but dates for the second term will be announced later, after the government considers the situation closer to the new term.
  • All hospitals and health facilities have been put on high alert. All government premises will be equipped with screening and sanitising facilities. The private sector is encouraged to install similar facilities.
  • More isolation and treatment centres are being identified, designated and equipped appropriately.
  • COVID-19 threatens economic stability, as well as the long-term targets under the government’s Vision 2030.