With the country set to welcome business visitors to its annual biggest multi-sectoral exhibition, the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair (ZITF), next month, residents of the host city, Bulawayo, have expressed concern the trade show-case could expose them to the deadly Coronavirus, which has claimed many lives across the globe.
ZITF, pencilled for April 21 to 25, will see people from different parts of the world descent on the city for the jamboree, something that has caused uneasiness among concerned Bulawayo dwellers.
According to the World Health Organisation(WHO), there have been more than 100 000 cases worldwide which have resulted in over 3 500 deaths, while more than 58 400 people have recovered.
Neighbouring South Africa has so far recorded 13 confirmed cases of Covid-19, the disease caused by the Coronavirus.
The Southern African Development Community (SADC) this week convened an extra-ordinary meeting of health ministers on Covid-19 in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, to come up with a position on the state of preparedness and strategies to counter it.
The regional bloc then took a step further and suspended with immediate effect planned public events in the bloc as part of efforts to minimise risks from the coronavirus.
SADC meetings will now go virtual, with video conferencing or teleconferencing.
In a statement this week, SADC said owing to the virus, they had put on hold scheduled events until further notice.
“Considering the recent developments regarding the coronavirus outbreak, a number of countries and institutions have taken responsible precautionary measures to prevent the risk of exposure to contracting and spreading of the deadly virus,” read the statement.
“In this phase of preparedness and uncertain moment, the SADC Secretariat regrets to inform you that all planned SADC events around this period have been put to hold until further notice, when the situation has normalised and this global pandemic has been contained.”
The bloc added: “We recognise that the timing of this prudent decision may pose an inconvenience on you, however, it is made out of profound concern for the health and well-being of the SADC citizens,” she said.
Asked if the government would consider postponing ZITF, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health and Child Care, Agnes Mahomva, said they were still assessing the situation.
“Well, it depends as things continue to unfold,” Mahomva said.
“But as we assess our situation, quite clearly anything may change but I wouldn’t want to say that now.”
She added all visitors that will be coming into the country for trade fair will be subjected to screening and quarantine if necessary.
“We are simply saying if you are coming from a country that has got confirmed cases, be ready to be isolated if we screen you at our airports and you happen to have a temperature, all the signs and symptoms that might be saying you might have it,” she said.
She recommended the-would be visitors to Zimbabwe to first consult their doctors for them to be screened in order to determine whether they are fit to travel.
Meanwhile, the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange (ZSE) has postponed the 57th Committee of SADC Stock Exchange (CoSSE) meeting and Second Broker’s Networking Session that was scheduled for this week in Victoria Falls due to the outbreak of coronavirus.
The pandemic has also seen several global business gatherings being shelved, a major blow to companies’ profits.
The decision to halt the regional indaba, ZSE said, was guided by the SADC’s stance to suspend all events following the outbreak of coronavirus in China, which has spread to nearly 100 countries.
“ZSE wishes to advise stakeholders on the postponement of the 57th Committee of SADC Stock Exchange (CoSSE) meeting and 2nd Broker’s Networking Session that was scheduled from 11 to 13 March 2020,” said ZSE in a statement.
“Due to the coronavirus outbreak, the SADC Secretariat has temporarily suspended all SADC events. Therefore, the CoSSE secretariat together with the ZSE decided to postpone the meetings to a later date.”