COMMENT: Herd immunity vital for Victoria Falls President Mnangagwa gets temperature check, BP check and vaccine jab in Victoria Falls yesterday. Looking on is Vice-President Dr Costantino Chiwenga

Victoria Falls is special.

It is the country’s top tourist destination. Of all the local tourist sites, Victoria Falls receives the highest number of visitors, contributing the largest portion of the between US$1, 6 billion and US$2 billion annual revenue that the sector generates.

Given the central place it occupies in the national tourism market, the Government designated Victoria Falls as a tourism special economic zone and an international financial centre. Victoria Falls is also the country’s youngest city after its designation on December 9, 2020.

Because it is the centerpiece of tourism in the country, it is arguably the place that was hardest hit by Covid-19, a disease that halted most local and international travel due to lockdowns that all governments had to institute since last year to combat the infection.

When the pandemic emerged early last year, the first positive case to be reported in the country was a resident of Victoria Falls, a tourism professional who contracted the virus during an international trip to market the destination.

In addition to being the hardest hit by the coronavirus and recording the country’s first positive case on March 20, last year, the city is where President Mnangagwa got his first dose of Sinovac vaccine against Covid-19 on March 24 this year. By receiving his first jab there, the President was sending a message to the tourism industry at home and abroad. He communicated a message of a rebirth of the city’s economy after a year of zero business. Speaking at the event, the President said the Government had embarked on a drive to vaccinate all the residents of the city so that it achieves herd immunity against the disease.

Indeed, Victoria Falls is special in a number of ways.

To add to its uniqueness, the city has become the first in the country to achieve herd immunity against Covid-19 within a month of the launch of the targeted rollout there and about 39 days after the start of the national rollout. It is probably the first city in mainland southern Africa to reach that milestone.

President Mnangagwa tweeted the big news yesterday, saying 77 percent of Victoria Falls citizens had received their second jab, way above the 60 percent threshold that a community needs to be scientifically recognised as having attained herd immunity.

“Victoria Falls has now achieved herd immunity. Last month I received my first Covid-19 vaccine in Victoria Falls. I am immensely proud that over 77 percent of the city’s inhabitants have received their second jab. Thank you to all the health officials who have made this possible,” he said.

A separate report on Saturday indicated that as of Wednesday, 19 243 residents out of 25 000 who are eligible for vaccination in the city were getting their second jabs. A simple calculation shows that the target has been achieved. In the same report, an executive in the city said 95 percent of all tourism workers had been inoculated against Covid-19.

We are proud of the achievement that the country has scored in Victoria Falls. This will ensure that our people in the city now have a good chance of fighting off Covid-19. This means that any tourist visiting that city will be assured that they are not flying into a danger zone.

This, too, repositions Victoria Falls as a safe destination for local and international tourists. When borders are reopened and international travel schedules restored, travellers would be confident that the risk of them contracting the coronavirus in Victoria Falls is low.

The Victoria Falls milestone is important in more ways. It demonstrates the good that we can achieve as a people to rebuild the economy from the damage that Covid-19 has wrought. With unity, discipline and far-sighted leadership of the President, Zimbabwe can and will recover fast from the pandemic and grow.

Victoria Falls has made us proud.

We however, would want to encourage those among us who have been hesitant to get vaccinated. As of Sunday, 390 018 people had been vaccinated countrywide since the start of vaccinations on March 18. This is not a bad figure considering the initial slow start to the campaign but we want more to make themselves available for vaccination as it is the best way to fight off Covid-19. It is the surest way for the country to face the future with confidence.

A Covid-19 vaccination is lifesaving but we emphasise that wearing the face mask all the time and appropriately, avoiding crowds, practising hand hygiene and disinfecting workplaces are equally important.

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