Andile Tshuma, Chronicle Correspondent
ELEVEN people have escaped from Bulawayo’s quarantine centres while a total of 169 returnees have escaped countrywide, posing challenges in efforts to reduce the number of local Covid-19 transmissions.
It is mandatory for all people returning to the country to be quarantined.
Some people have been escaping quarantine centres, which puts people they come into contact with at risk of contracting the virus.
In recent weeks, most of the Covid-19 positive cases recorded in the country involve people returning mostly from neighbouring countries, especially South Africa, Botswana and Mozambique.
Family members and members of the public have since been urged to report to the police, relatives or community members who evade mandatory quarantine as their actions may result in the spread of Covid-19.
In Bulawayo, returnees are quarantined at the United College of Education and at the Bulawayo Polytechnic.
Police could not immediately state where exactly they had escaped from or provide their names.
National police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi said 11 people had escaped from quarantine centres in Bulawayo while 169 had escaped from centres countrywide.
He said most escapees were returnees from South Africa and some of them were ex-convicts while others were wanted persons after committing various crimes.
Matabeleland South province recorded the highest number of people who escaped from quarantine at 95 followed by Matabeleland North province with 31 escapees. Midlands province has 18 people who escaped.
Mashonaland Central, Manicaland and Masvingo provinces each have four people and the remaining from Mashonaland East province.
29 of those who escaped have since been arrested.
“Bulawayo province currently has a total number of 11 escapees from quarantine Centre. We have a problem with Matabeleland South due to its proximity to the border to South Africa. 95 returnees have so far escaped form quarantine centres there. This poses a challenge as the country is trying to curb the spread of Covid-19 as the number of cases are going up,” said Asst Comm Nyathi.
Bulawayo Provincial Affairs Minister Cde Judith Ncube urged residents not to habour escapees as that puts the city at great risk of Covid-19.
“It is bad and irresponsible for someone to escape from a quarantine centre as they may take Covd-19 to the community when we are trying to control it. Do the right thing and stay there until the number of days are over and you have been retested. I urge the Bulawayo community not to harbour them but advise them to finish their quarantine days for the purpose of public health. Truly loving your family members does not involve putting them at risk and I urge all of us to unite on this. To those that suspect that someone is hiding a Covid-19 returnee, I urge you to report because no effort is too small,” said the Minister.
Meanwhile, Asst Comm Nyathi said 1 534 people were arrested countrywide for violating lockdown regulations on Tuesday, bringing the total number of lockdown arrests to 61 459.
Bulawayo province which previously topped the list of arrests, now has 11 579 arrests.
Harare province now tops the list with 12 077 arrests and Manicaland province follows closely at 11 959.
“The Zimbabwe Republic Police confirms that a total of 1 534 people were arrested on 9 June 2020 throughout the country for various offences related to contraventions of the National lockdown regulations, bringing the total cumulative arrests to 61 459,” said Asst Comm Nyathi.
“In light of the increase in new Covid-19 cases being detected, we are appealing to members of the public to adhere to the safety guidelines and regulations put in place by Government to contain the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic. This will assist the police and other security services in the maintenance of law and order in the country.”
Speaking last week during a National Taskforce on Covid-19 media briefing, Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister Monica Mutsvangwa said manpower had been increased at quarantine centres.
“The importance of the posed risk by border jumpers and quarantine absconders cannot be overstated. Going forward, persons who abscond from quarantine centres will have their details published so that communities are aware of the potential risks in their midst,” she said.
Minister Mutsvangwa also said the Government would be amending standard operating procedures at quarantine centres and added that there would be systematic testing of all customs and immigration officers, as well as port health personnel to check and minimise transmission of the virus. — @andile_tshuma