HEALTH experts have called on the government to urgently close the borders, particularly the busy Beitbridge Border Post after a new COVID-19 variant was detected in neighbouring South Africa.
Already, five countries Germany, Turkey, Israel, Switzerland and Saudi Arabia have suspended flights from South Africa to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 variant.
The virus is termed 501.V2 variant, and health experts have said it carries a heavier viral load.
With thousands of Zimbabweans based in South Africa returning home for the Christmas and New Year holidays, health experts fear the worst for the country, hence they called on the government to close borders.
“It’s too late to close the South African border as there are thousands of people already committed to spending the festive season here in Zimbabwe,” Mpilo chief executive officer Solwayo Ngwenya said in an interview.
“You (Zimbabweans) will have to deal with the ramifications of COVID-19, despite expert warnings and advice. People were warned not to travel, and repeatedly for months they were warned.”
South Africa has recorded 931 000 cases of COVID-19, with almost 25 000 deaths, according to official statistics.
Excess mortality studies suggest a death toll of more than 5 000.
After the first wave peaked in July and August, the daily total for new cases fell dramatically.
However, the number of new infections began to rise steeply at the beginning of December, reaching 11 000 early this week.
Meanwhile, the Bulawayo City Council has banned annual public activities during the festive season citing escalation of COVID-19 infections.
The banned activities include the Jason Moyo Street Mall, Trade Fair funfairs and the Lunar Park, which are places in Bulawayo well known for lighting up the festive season as they attract huge crowds.
“The city would like to advise the public that the portion of Jason Moyo Street, of 8th Avenue between JMN Nkomo Street and Fife Street will not be closed this festive season to accommodate Christmas activities due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Bulawayo town clerk Christopher Dube said in a statement.
“Council will, in future, notify the public of any changes pertaining to the events at the Jason Moyo Street Mall, Trade Fair funfairs and Lunar Park activities in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Bulawayo City Council would like to apologise for any inconveniences likely to be caused.”
Dube also advised Bulawayo residents to adhere to COVID-19 protocols, which include wearing of masks and exercising social distancing, as well as avoiding public gatherings during the festive season.
The City of Bulawayo is once again recording a high number in daily infections and at least a death everyday.
According to the daily update from the Health and Child Care ministry, as at December 22, Bulawayo had 481 active cases and 90 deaths.
The country has recorded 12 544 cases, 10 159 recoveries and 326 deaths.