Govt to strengthen security against coronavirus at borders

Government will fortify its security along border posts and various routes to enhance monitoring checks and reduce porosity as part of strengthened efforts to detect any possible entry of coronavirus in the country, Health and Child Care Minister, Dr Obadiah Moyo has said.

Coronavirus has spread throughout the world since its first cases were detected in central China in December last year, with now more than 440 confirmed cases in over 25 countries and territories outside mainland China.

So far, there are no confirmed cases of the virus reported in Africa but concerns have been raised on the effectiveness of current checks set in place at various borders.

Zimbabwe has several ports of entry, especially ground ports such as Beitbridge, which is the biggest inland port in southern Africa that handles huge volumes of traffic and cases of illegal border jumping.

Responding to questions from CITE Friday in Bulawayo, Dr Moyo, said government would strengthen the function of security forces to help in monitoring borders and curtailing border jumping activities.

“We want to see a situation where all our borders are not porous; we don’t want border jumpers to be coming through on the sidelines of ground ports. This why we have to work as team, strengthening the functioning of all security forces so that they can be able to help us in as far as curtailing those jumping borders.”

Dr Obadiah Moyo, Minister of Health and Child Care.

The minister said checks had been set at the main ports of entry such as airports and ground ports by making sure there was an enhanced preparedness for identifying imported cases.

“Our surveillance system is fully functional starting with early detection at the airports and isolation facilities for our suspect cases,” Dr Moyo noted.

Regarding illegal border entry, the health minister underscored it was crucial to strengthen surveillance at the borders, which is where the security forces come in.

“We are saying, number one, we have to strengthen our borders. When we say, we are strengthening control at our borders, this doesn’t stop at the official border itself, there are so many routes, which are known to our security forces and these are being monitored on a continuous basis as well; it doesn’t just stop at the official point.”

Dr Obadiah Moyo.

Dr Moyo reiterated while his ministry would want to be effective, fighting coronavirus was more of a team effort, as the pandemic was a global threat.

“That’s why we have people from the security sector in this meeting (held to assess state of preparedness against coronavirus in Bulawayo and Matabeleland), as they also realise the importance that enhanced monitoring means, we have to strengthen our detection and screening system. This is what we’re doing with regards to the checking of the fevers and all that related to screening for coronavirus,” he said.

“We are making sure there is adequate equipment at our ground ports making sure that there is thermo detectors at all these ground ports. Yes, we are conscious of the fact that there will be some illegalities but the chances of receiving people coming from let’s say China and then coming through an illegal border are also very slim but we will still check, you never know.”

Dr Moyo said Zimbabwe was in continuous communication with the World Health Organisation (WHO), which is the body coordinating all information relating to the coronavirus so far.

“In Africa, there are no other cases, except for the scare which came through Botswana. We started talking with people in Botswana, warning each other and talking about it. Yes, as SADC, we are communicating on a continuous basis. We are always in touch, sharing information but the main line of information and communication always comes through WHO.”

Dr Obadiah Moyo.

The health minister said WHO collects information on a daily basis and relays it to its African regional offices where countries learn what is happening.

“We access information from the WHO report, as that’s the best way of knowing. So far, it has been fairly clean in Africa so let’s keep our fingers crossed and make sure we stay safe. Collaborations are very necessary in this type of outbreaks; we are not alone in this world so we want to try and avoid this pandemic,” Dr Moyo summed.

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