Luke Daniel (www.businessinsider.co.za)
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UPDATE | SA escapes Zimbabwe’s new travel restrictions – but Delta variant still a concern
- Zimbabwe's Enhanced Level 4 lockdown has banned intercity movement, reduced workplace capacity, and imposed a 12-hour curfew.
- The new rules, aimed at curbing a third wave of Covid-19 infections, also takes direct aim at the Delta variant.
- "Travellers from countries with Alpha and Delta Covid-19 variants" will be subjected to a mandatory 10-day quarantine and four tests at their own expense.
- Although the Delta variant is driving infections in South Africa, cross-border travellers will not be forced to quarantine.
- For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.
Zimbabwe’s tightened lockdown restrictions which require “travellers from countries with Alpha and Delta Covid-19 variants” to endure a mandatory 10-day quarantine does not apply to visitors from South Africa. Only travellers from India and the United Kingdom (UK) are currently subjected to the new quarantine laws.
Following in South Africa’s footsteps, Zimbabwe returned to an adjusted form of Level 4 lockdown on Wednesday. The announcement by President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Tuesday evening came just a day after South Africa entered Adjusted Alert Level 4 lockdown which extends the hours of curfew, prohibits the sale of alcohol, and restricts movement in and out of Gauteng.
South Africa’s move to a stricter level of lockdown comes amid a surge in Covid-19 cases which is being driven by the Delta variant’s growing dominance.
“The Delta variant is approximately 50% to 60% more transmissible than the Beta variant, which was responsible for the second wave in South Africa,” explained Netcare CEO Dr Richard Friedland on Wednesday.
Data gathered by the Network for Genomic Surveillance in South Africa (NGS-SA) shows that the Delta variant has become more prevalent than the Beta variant, with the former being detected in 53% of specimens gathered in Gauteng.
The Delta variant is also starting to dominate Zimbabwe’s third wave of Covid-19 infections, as reported by the state broadcaster ZBC on Sunday. “The Delta variant is twice as infectious as all the other variants… we have noted in other countries very high infection rates,” explained the Deputy Director Laboratory Services in the Ministry of Health and Child Care, Dr Raiva Simbi.
The number of active Covid-19 cases in Zimbabwe has doubled in just a week, with the recovery rate recently dropping to below 80%, according to the ministry of health and child care. This surge in infections and hospitalisations has been met with tougher lockdown restrictions.
Zimbabwe’s Enhanced Level 4 lockdown reduces the number of employees in a workplace to 40% and bans movement between cities. Businesses are only able to operate between 08:00 and 15:30, with curfew lasting from 18:30 to 06:00.
While these restrictions have been implemented under previous lockdowns, two new regulations – aimed solely at travellers – have been included in the newest set of rules.
“Travellers from countries with Alpha and Delta Covid-19 variants will be quarantined and tested on the first, third, fifth, and tenth days, at their own expense,” noted President Mnangagwa while detailing the latest lockdown regulations.
“Travellers with fake Covid-19 documents will attract custodial sentences.”
Without a clear indication or list of which countries and travellers would be impacted by the new restrictions, concerns around cross-border movement – especially through the Beitbridge post – were levelled at the Zimbabwean government.
Beitbridge border, which links the two countries, remains Africa’s busiest border crossing. Cross-border traders and daily commuters urged Zimbabwe’s Permanent Secretary of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting, Nick Mangwana, to publish the list of countries’ whose travellers face mandatory quarantine.
Mangwana, acknowledging these concerns, issued a response on Wednesday evening. Citing data and surveillance strategies used by Zimbabwe’s ministry of health and child care, the statement shared by Mangwana listed India and the UK as the only countries which are currently impacted by the mandatory quarantine measures.
“We are concerned about the Alpha and Delta variants,” noted Mangwana, adding that the variants had first been detected in the UK and India, respectively.
But this doesn’t mean that travel restrictions won’t be extended to include neighbouring countries. The ministry of health and child care explained that the National Microbiology Reference Lab is currently sequencing samples from hotspot regions across the country.
An outbreak in Mashonaland West, which borders Zambia, is of particular concern. Although most outbreaks are in the northern parts of the country – away from the South African border – a rise in cases in Bulawayo could result in harsher localised restrictions.
This includes the “management of ports of entry” – border closures or mandatory quarantine measures – which could be applied to curb the spread of infections in certain regions.
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